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March 24, 2009
1 person found this review helpful

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March 24, 2009
1 person found this review helpful

I can still recall vividly arriving for the first time to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Counselor were cheering. The sun was shining. Everyone was smiling. And little did I realize that my life was about to be changed forever. I have been involved with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for the past twenty years. I was a camper. I have volunteered as a counselor. I’ve played a role in fundraising. And I can say that the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp is truly a magical place. There is a large population of children out there who can neither go to “traditional” summer camps nor simply spend the summer “playing.” For those children, the Hole in the Wall Gang camp offers a unique respite. As a camper, I fished; I canoed; I made beads; I put on plays; I climbed a rock wall; I wrote poetry; and I did all of that in a supportive, safe, respectful, and loving environment. These experiences were, of course, great fun. But they were also so much more. They offered a sense of normalcy. I too have ridden horses. I too know how to canoe. I too have a drawer full of arts and crafts projects. While, perhaps for some children, these are just summer distractions, they gave, to me, a sense of being “normal.” As a child, I spent much of my time around doctors or hospitals. And during much of my remaining time, I was around those who had never had such experiences, a constant reminder that I was “different.” But for a short time each Summer, I enjoyed what everyone else seemed to take for granted. My time at camp was special for yet another reason as well: the many wonderful people that I met there. I had a chance to meet other kids with similar life experiences and see that I was not alone. I also met a series of mentors, young people who had left their colleges or medical schools or jobs to come offer their time to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. I look back upon my time as a camper and realize that I simply cannot imagine what life would have been like without camp. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you had grown up in a different country or been born to different parents? Consider that for a moment. There are some counterfactuals that just can’t be imagined. For me, that is life without the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. And my experience as a camper was not unique. Thousands of children go through the rustic wood gate at the front of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and are forever changed for having done so. Perhaps even more amazing (and almost as transformative) as my time as a camper has been my time as a volunteer. Each time I step foot on camp or help at a camp event, I am struck by the dedication and energy of those who pour their hearts into running the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Try to imagine what is required in taking care of a single child with an illness or disability. Now imagine what is involved in caring for thousands of them, while giving them a normal summer camp experience, and doing it in such a way that never feels intrusive but is always carefully supervised. Each and every time I meet other counselors, I’m always amazed by how much they can pour into that endeavor. Passion, professionalism, and skill are a rare combination, but one that I have consistently observed in the camp staff and administration. A camp counselor once remarked to me that everyone gets more out of the Hole in the Wall Gang camp than they put in. In my seven-year-old wisdom, I questioned how such a feat was possible: where did it all come from? Twenty years later, I still do not know the answer to that question. But I do know that it is the miracle of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

my life and the lives of others.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

be very proud of what I do.

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

everything.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

truly incredible.

Ways to make it better...

everyone who wanted to attend camp could do so.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008

March 5, 2009

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March 5, 2009

In 1995, my family entered into the incredible world of Paul Newman's The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp. My 13 year old son had just completed a year of treatment for bone cancer and although he had survived the horrors of his illness, he was utterly demoralized and debilitated. The Camp gave him back his childhood and gave me and my family courage, optimism, playfulness,hope,extraordinary friendships, and a context from which we could understand how our lives had been changed and how to proceed to fashion his and our recovery. At age almost 27, he is in good health and "on top of the world". A microcosm of total strangers inspired by Paul Newman's vision gave us this extraordinary gift and have become our lifelong friends and second family. The Camp which is in Ashford, CT, has done this for over 17,000 children and enters its 22nd summer season in 2009. Over 1000 children will attend, all free of charge. Cancer, sickle cell anemia, HIV/AIDS and hemophilia are the major medical conditions affecting these children 7-15 yrs of age, but campers with rare disorders who could not attend camp elsewhere are also included.There is a full range of activities including, swimming, boating, fishing, horseback riding, theater, making movies, songwriting and making CD recordings, photography, arts and crafts, woodshop, archery, hot air ballooning,camping out overnight, a climbing wall with a 300 foot zip line, and many more activities. Despite the complexity and severity of their illnesses, the children are able to just have fun and many describe their week at Camp as the best week of the entire year, the time of their life, and better than Disneyland. Although one might expect a somber emotional tone, it is a place of incredible happiness, playfulness, positivity, love, respect,trust, and safety. They can't wait for the next summer's camp experience. Top tier medical care is provided by a large staff of outstanding pediatric specialist doctors and nurses. 2 Big Apple Circus clowns are resident all summer long.We have a full time music director and entertainment director and the dining hall is filled with laughter, music, song, and dancing. The Camp provides year round programming in Ashford and offsite with a special summer session for healthy sibling campers, family weekends at Camp, weekend parent retreats, off-season camper reunions, and website communication. There is also extensive programming for aged out campers. A hospital outreach program staffed by young artists who are former counselors provides thousands of visits to sick children throughout New York and New England. The counselors who are largely college and graduate school age, 1/4 of whom are former campers, are among the most talented, intelligent, intuitive, and compassionate young folks I have ever meet. The senior administrative staff is second to none and it seems that no situation has not been anticipated and fully planned for. The Camp operates a 300+ acre facility with a 40 acre lake and is gorgeous. The architecture is a Wild West motif with fantastic design. My entire family has served as volunteer counselors and my wife and I will return this summer for our 13th consecutive year. My fellow Board of Director members are among the most thoughtful, innovative, capable, and generous people I have ever met with several having served since the inception of Camp. They are a diverse and high-profile group of national leaders and my family and I have been the beneficiaries of their kindness and brilliance. Paul Newman provided unique leadership and vision for all of us and his legacy grows ever larger. Camp has a deeply spiritual dimension as well and is a land of "the ultimate right stuff" where people perform selflessly and at their highest capacity in the name of the children. It is a truly magical kingdom and as a parent, volunteer counselor, and 7 year member of the Board of Directors, it is a great privilege to be associated with this organization.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

its enormously positive impact on my son and my entire family

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

as a bOARD MEMBER i AM PART OF THE LEADERSHIP FOR THIS Organization

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the people who have come to be my second family

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

see my review above

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

it could not do any better tnan it does already

Ways to make it better...

could not be better

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

the present economy as a challenge for all nonprofits

One thing I'd also say is that...

see review above

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

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