Long Island natives Joanne and Gary Turnier started Holy Family Summer Camp in 1993 with the vision of providing the highest quality summer camp programs at the most affordable price for families on Long Island.
Today, Camps ‘R’ Us’ award-winning camps are among the best summer camps on Long Island, built upon a community of thousands of children whose summers will be among their most treasured memories for their entire lives.
Joanne and Gary were not always “camp people.” As a hard working married couple, this pair of professionals – Joanne, a Registered Nurse and Gary, a NYC schoolteacher – was dedicated to making a living in support of their family. To that end, they both returned to school as adults to further their careers, but in doing so, never lost sight of the reason why they worked so hard… to provide for their family.
In 1990, Joanne began working the overnight shift in the NICU at Nassau County Medical Center. Gary, having changed careers recently, was an elementary school teacher, and had just been tenured at P.S. 68Q in Ridgewood, Queens. To earn extra money, he ran after school programs in the evenings, and moonlighted as a musician at night and on weekends. Moreover, both were also attending classes in pursuit of advanced degrees. Joanne had recently finished Nursing School, and was studying for he Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Gary returned to school to attain his Master’s Degree in Education.
Joanne and Gary were not always “camp people.” Needless to say, spare time was in short supply. With two children, ages 6 and 9, balancing work, school and home life was a very difficult task. Bills were a burden, as was the case for many working families on Long Island, but the Turniers somehow managed to make ends meet. The kids were always a priority, and Joanne and Gary kept them focused on their education and extra-curricular activities, like Little League baseball, music lessons, and dance. If money was tight, the kids didn’t know it, and there was never a reason to let them know.
The school year made scheduling easier. Because the kids were out of the house during the day, Joanne could catch up on the sleep she missed while working the night before. Gary had recently begun a new after school program at Holy Family in Hicksville, and like the other children at the school, his kids had a place to be while parents like him made their way home from work.
Once the summer of 1991 arrived, things got a little crazy. To earn extra money in previous years, Gary had been the supervising physical education teacher at summer programs in New York City called the Big Apple Games. Since Joanne now worked full-time as well, the Turniers now needed to rely on babysitters to care for their children.
Because they could not afford traditional childcare, it was necessary to rely on friends and family, but finding people who had free time on weekdays was a difficult task. They envisioned a summer camp that was of the highest quality with a focus on affordability.Discouraged, and with few options, Gary and Joanne called a number of summer camps in the area to inquire about fees and availability. Having never researched summer camps, they were shocked to learn that camps in the area were charging more than Gary earned in an entire summer! It was more prudent for Gary to quit his summer job and stay home with the children. The alternative would have been for him to work all day, and still be unable to afford the camp fees.
So, the Turniers now had a summer stay-at-home-dad. It seems, however, that daily trips to the town pool, bowling alley, park, and movie theaters were expenses that Joanne and Gary had not considered. Not only was Gary’s summer salary gone, the additional expenses made matters worse. Something was wrong with this situation. “How do other people like us make it work?” Gary wondered. If parents had to work just afford camp, or take the summer off and spend their money providing daily entertainment for the kids, how can they afford it? There has to be an alternative!”
At that time, however, there was no alternative. Sure, there were low cost camps, but they only ran for half the day, out of a park with no buildings, or only offered limited sessions. The kids were too old for traditional day care, and babysitters were overpriced and incapable of providing a day full of stimulating activities.
The only logical solution for Joanne and Gary was to create a program that fit their needs. So, they envisioned a summer camp that was of the highest quality with a focus on affordability. “How do other people like us make it work? There has to be an alternative!”It took over 18 months to research and create the first camp manual and to obtain an operating license, and on June 28,1993, Holy Family Summer Camp opened its doors.
Since then, Joanne and Gary have opened 5 additional campuses and officially organized them as Camps ‘R’ Us in 2005. The family now had a thriving family business, and in 2007 all Camps ‘R’ Us campuses opened under our new name.
From our humble beginnings, our mission and core values have remained steadfast. For many families, it is a constant struggle to live, work and raise a family on Long Island. We are dedicated to taking the worry out of summer planning by providing the most fun, safe and affordable camp experience possible.
Today, Joanne Turnier, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CNRN, CT is the Program Manager for Health Literacy in the office of Diversity, Inclusion and Health Literacy for the North Shore-LIJ Health System. She is also our Health Director, and Vice President of Strategic Operations.
Gary Turnier MS, Ed. is a retired Dean of Students for the New York City Department of Education, and is our President, CEO and Executive Director.
Jason Turnier, MBA, BGS is Joanne and Gary’s son, and became a camp professional in 2005. He is our Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer.