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Hole in the Wall Gang Fund, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: AIDS, Cancer, Health, Patient & Family Support, Sports

Mission: Founded in 1988 by Paul Newman, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp is a community dedicated to providing “a different kind of healing” to seriously ill children and their families through a variety of year-round programs. The Camp delivers fun, friendship and a healthy dose of mischief through its signature summer program and weekend sessions at the Camp facility in Ashford, Conn. as well as outreach to hospitals, clinics and communities across the Northeast. All services are free of charge.

Results: We served 25,000 seriously ill children and their family members in 2013 and expect to increase that number to 30,000 in the coming years.

Target demographics: seriously ill children with cancer, sickle cell disease, HIV/AIDS, hemophilia and other blood disorders, metabolic disease and mitochondrial disease

Direct beneficiaries per year: 25,000 children and family members

Geographic areas served: northeastern United States and some groups from overseas

Programs: We offer year-round programs for seriously ill children and their families, including our signature summer camp program, weekend programs for campers, families, parents and caregivers.

Community Stories

21 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Dr Dave

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

My family and I have been volunteering here for 15 years. My son started as a camper and for the past two summers has been a Leader in training (LIT I & Ii).
We look forward to our week of volunteering all year long. It's great to be able to help the kids have fun in a safe and loving environment. I'm not sure who gets more out if it, me or the kids. Equal. This is an excellently run camp, with top-notch facilities and staff. Can't wait for my week this summer!
Dr Dave

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered as part of the medical staff for the past 13 years. I've had the pleasure of seeing kids return year after year and telling me that they've looked forward all year long to their week at camp. These children with chronic illnesses get to experience a fun, safe, loving environment in rural Connecticut that lets them play like any other children. Just like the kids, I look forward to my week each year at camp - it is inspiring and motivational! In addition to volunteering my time, I am also a donor . See you at Camp! Dr Dave

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Compasion, caring and a whole lot of fun. These are the hallmarks of Hole in the Wall. High standards for facilities, staff training, program as well as camper safety and well being. A place where children with exceptional medical need can be "normal" for a week.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the privilege of volunteering at THITWGC for 9 seasons. Every year I hope I can get time off from work to go volunteer again. Well structured, well organized, excellent staff training, and use of resources. They do an excellent job of fullfilling their mission statement. My own children were campers here, as well as volunteers and their experiences were life changing. It is clear that the children's needs and happiness are put first.

Hole in The Wall is a glimmer of hope and respite for families struggling with chronically ill children. The only criticism I can give (since you asked for it) is integrating volunteers into the routine of camp. This can be difficult because the full summer staff is such a tight knit group. The effort is clearly there to bring everyone up to speed quickly Frankly, I don't know how anyone could effectly do this, but you ask for a criticism, and if there is some way I'm sure Hole in the Wall will find it.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It doesn't get any better than this organization. The wonderful Paul Newman, now happily acting in heaven, gave an immense gift to sick children, their families & everyone involved with this wonderful place.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I began working at the Hole in the Wall in 2000 and then spent anywhere from a few weeks to an entire summer working there for 6 years. It is one of the most magical places on the planet, an oasis in the middle of the Connecticut woods where kids and their families who are suffering from blood diseases and cancer can rediscover fun. Volunteering there is not easy, but it is GOOD work. And some of the most rewarding time I have spent on this earth.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A long time ago I went to the sibling session at THITWGC and it was amazing, so I went back the next year as a volunteer. My experiences with camp have had a lasting affect in inspiring me to work with seriously ill or disabled people for the rest of my life. Camp has had a giant impact on my family and my sister, in providing a lifetime of experiences and a community that she would not otherwise have. I love camp!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The HTWGC is a magical place! After two summers of volunteering, I can't wait to go back this year. To witness the joy that camp brings to these children has been such a gift to me! The days and nights are filled with opportunities for children to experience activities that they might never have had the chance to try. The staff is AMAZING and filled with boundless energy and enthusiasm for their campers. There is such an atmosphere of love and respect spread throughout camp. In just a short week, I have watched kids become so close within their "cabin" family, learning new things about themselves and their peers. These life lessons are as important a part of camp as the fun that just comes with the whole experience. If you are blessed enough to have the opportunity to come to camp, as a camper, a counselor, or as a volunteer, your life will never be the same!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I first started volunteering 9 years ago, I didn't understand the profound effect that a week at camp could have on the campers served by this great organization. Ordinary summer camp experiences like catching a fish, building a birdhouse, riding a horse, climbing a rock wall, or going swimming may well be out of the question for many of our campers - until they spend a week at The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp. The Medical Staff, Summer Staff, and volunteers show remarkable resourcefulness so a camper can safely experience all the camp activities that he/she wants. I now have a camper granddaughter who recently summed up her perspective on camp "Everybody here is my friend".

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered at this year-round camp for seriously ill children as a medical doctor. I find working at the camp very fulfilling and satisfying. The campers are very active. They love to dance at every meal. They develop great friendships with one another and with the staff. With all the adversity these children face in their daily lives, they really value their relationships. They are mature beyond their years because of what they are going through. They appreciate that life is more about relationships than things.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My first experience with camp was a resident physician in 2003...and I have enjoyed the privilege of volunteering since that time. What I always say about my camp experience is that I started volunteering while still in training so that I might become a better doctor...what I soon realized is that camp not only has made me a better doctor but a better person as well. My experiences at Camp Hole in the Wall serve as a constant reminder of what is good in this world...each volunteer, each staff member, each camper bring energy, compassion and kindness making camp one of the greatest places to be.

Maria K.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

THITWGC was a place I went to offer... finally I ended up getting sooo much back. Thus I had to go back again and again and again... and every time I had the same feeling: I was always getting back more. THITWGC is a place that brings the best out of everyone: campers, staff and volunteers. I was blessed to have had the camp experience in my life. Now I am 5.000miles away from camp and it has been many years since my last summer there but every single memory is still with me every day of my life helping me in noumerous ways. So... once more... the camp keeps offering me so much more than I have ever had offered. Does that mean that perhaps it's time for me to go back? I send my warmest kisses and thoughts to everyone in CT. Maria, former staff & volunteer (now living in Greece). :)

Kayla B.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp. It changed my life. Just the first step on campus. You see about the brightest of the brightest smiles all over on these children faces. You find that there are better things in life than just thinking about yourself or worrying about the smaller things in life. When really you could be helping millions of children who just want that normal life like any other kid/teen their age. You could give them that. By giving them that, you could give yourself peace and happiness. Love and Joy. It's changed my life volunteering there as an L.I.T. I was a camper as well. They gave me the most amazing time ever there. I loved giving it back to other children.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Love this place. Sheer madness and genius. Started as clown, then volunteer who wouldn't leave, I help with galas and fundraisers; I live with the voices of campers in my heart Every Single Day. They touch you in ways you can only experience, not imagine! I've learned so much, and keep learning. The counselors are incredibly gifted; they feed off the kids who "give it right back to you, yeah". Camp has taught me a whole new way to listen to a child, a whole new way to give a rip!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Each summer I volunteer for a week as a counselor. Camp is a magical place! It helps restore a sense of normalcy to families whose lives have been turned upside down by serious illness. Quite simply, its a place where kids can come and be just that...kids. The camp staff are among the most dedicated and caring individuals I have ever met and they always find a way to help the children to have a traditional camp experience. At the end of the week the kids said things to me like "I live for this week" and "this was the best week of my life," but what the parents said was even more poignant..."I haven't seen my child smile like this in such a long time" and "you dont know how much this means to find a place that will take my child just the way they are."

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started volunteering as a Camp nurse in the summer of 2009. Since then I have been back for several family and camper reunion weekends. I work as a nurse in an outpt dept at CT Children's Medical Center and I have been able to help some of our "kids" apply to Camp and it has been rewarding to see them go and have fun and come back to tell the songs they have learned and the experiences they have had. I plan to volunteer again as a nurse for weekends in the upcoming year and for an entire week the summer of 2011. I LOVE Camp. It is hard to explain but it is such an incredible place. I have met amazing people ...campers, their families, medical staff, volunteers, paid staff , counselors. They are an incredibly giving , loving bunch who work tirelessly to give these kids a phenomenal camp experience. I never see anyone say no to these kids (unless it is a safety issue of course)j. They will do their best to be able to allow the kids to do what makes them happy. They are so encouraging. The kids feel safe in this Camp environment, they don't have to worry about being picked on or not being able to do something because of their medical issues. I love watching the "kids be kids" . They TALK to each other (no cell phones or computers), they experience "cabin chat" which for me was an awesome experience, they create things, they make things. They use their imaginations to perform and create projects. They love to fish...that is one of their favorites.

From a medical perspective the staff nurses and the volunteer nurses and the physicians are amazing. They never seem to get tired. I have seen a staff nurse work all day, stay up all night with the older kids keeping them safe during a camp-out and then accompany a sick child to the emergency room the next day--in her pajamas--and never complain.

It is such an uplifting place to be. You would think with all the medical issues and illness that this would be a depressing place to be but it is exactly the opposite. The kids are inspiring. It is so rewarding to see them making friends, helping each other and learning about themselves. They can't wait to come back. I always leave Camp with much more than I came with and I can't wait to go back. I feel very lucky to be a part of such an amazing team.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My first time at Camp, I was very excited to be volunteering as a nurse in the infirmary. Little did I know that I would be leaving with so much more than I arrived with.The enthusiasm, the courage, the spirit, the friendships, the fun, the creativity is greater than you could ever imagine. The genuine sense of caring, from the smiles and hugs , to carrying a child on your back or in your arms because they have used up all their energy at play and are blissfully tired. The encouragement to perform on stage , ride a horse , make a birdhouse or pass a swim test. The environment at Camp is perfect for making awesome things happen and that's why we keep coming back year after year to witness them
Adrienne

Lucinda

Volunteer

Rating: 5

After a week of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a volunteer cabin counselor understands a new world view, a new language and a code of conduct: There are only 3 principles to run your week—safety, respect and love, and the kids really do believe in them. There are only 3 rules, No physical violence, no killer statements, and no unsupervised activities, and if they were followed in the world we’d all live in Utopia. But there is a fourth rule—have fun. It’s an impossible rule not to follow. You will never in your life ever see so many people putting so much energy and talent and creativity and hard work into hard playing. You usually don’t notice the hard work part. You notice that when someone mentions what or how much they make, it doesn’t refer to income but the volume of crafts and woodshop projects created. You realize that the only colors that really matter in this world are unit colors: purple and blue and red and green and yellow and if you mention one, a loud cheer with complicated rhythms executed in perfect synchrony might very well ensue. You wonder why clowns don’t help out in our lives everyday. Things would work out so much better. You learn that you can get really tired and not much sleep and still just thrive! Each day of the week has a name but it’s not Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but Fun Day, Stage Night Day, Party Night Day. Camp is the only place other than a Broadway musical where singing and dancing can break out at any time. The most important meeting of the day is when everyone is in bed and a candle is burning and it’s time for cabin chat. Overnight transformations of places you were in only hours ago occur regularly. Where did that gorilla come from? Was that totem pole there yesterday? People transform too. Random acts of kindness are performed by super secret agents. That there is true goodness in the world and it is possible to spread it around . Every risk you might take to be better, stronger, kinder, more artistic is not so scary with a lot of help from your friends. That homesickness is never as hard to deal with as sadness about leaving camp. It’s a good world to understand.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

You can read other reviews about The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp that will be more eloquent and more detailed than anything I’d ever be able to share (And, by the way, they’re all so terrifically written and so spot-on accurate!). So my short, simple story goes something like this: I first heard of Hole In The Wall Camp over 15 years ago, but didn’t get the chance to jump into the mix until the Summer of 2009. Since then, I’ve worked as a volunteer counselor at camp, worked at one-day outreach programs in the city, worked at fund-raising events, worked at the New Haven administrative offices — I’d gladly, voluntarily work any time, any place for this organization because of what they stand for: Safety, Respect, Love. You feel it every minute you’re around this place. Everyone you meet — from the staff, to the volunteers, to the kids themselves — has an energy and enthusiasm and passion for life that’s hard to find in such abundance anywhere else. This is an organization with a singular, laser-like focus: helping seriously ill kids and their families have some serious fun! There aren’t too many things more rewarding than seeing a smile or hearing a laugh coming from the heart of a Hole In The Wall camper. If you’re considering attending camp, volunteering at camp, or giving to camp, this is THE place to do it!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Overall it is an incredible organization. Truly, it is about these critically ill children getting to be 'kids at camp'.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I arrived at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in the summer of 1994 as a volunteer counselor. As with so many other people who came to know this camp, it changed my life entirely. The organization has given me far more than I’ve been able to offer it in my years of work there. The Camp defies easy description. Volunteers return year after year because the place offers you the chance to work long, intense hours around an intelligent, funny, big-hearted staff, and children who are often far wiser than anyone around them. Volunteers and staff members pour their hearts into the task: giving campers a packed week of play and fellowship, free of the social and physical constraints they face back home. As cabin counselors, we would routinely stay up past midnight to plan the next day’s activities and strategize about how to maximize the experience; how to make this one day as great as it could possibly be for our campers. At daybreak we’d lock arms with them and venture into those activities, building deep friendships in whispers as we waited for a fish to bite, or in songs shouted in the dining hall, or in silence around a candle at the close of the day. At the end of the week, those children are members of Camp’s family – a status that guarantees a lifetime of support from anyone affiliated with the place. The support extends to siblings and parents as well. They rely often on that support, and we are the better for it. For many who’ve stood in a joyful swarm of Hole in the Wall campers, we have been transformed into people who more fully understand what it means to love those around us, while serving a purpose that is far greater than whatever material goals we might have. Paul Newman somehow knew there would be magic in such a place. It’s difficult to believe that even he knew just how much magic there would be.

12

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I came to Hole in the Wall for the first time 8 years ago. I volunteer in the cabins and take care of the kids 24/7. I think about how much trust parents would need to go against their protective instincts and leave their child who has a life-threatening diagnosis out of their sight and in our charge, in the woods and far from home. The parents know how valuable it is. Ask the parents about the Hole in the Wall organization. They trust this organization with their most valuable presence – their family. Everything the Hole in the Wall does upholds that responsibility and trust. The Hole in the Wall organization defines the standard that other non-profits aspire to. They require the highest level of performance from staff, volunteers and from themselves, because the kids deserve it. The organization does absolutely everything at the highest level of integrity, whether it is construction of a tree house, injury prevention, a BBQ, groundskeeping, facility maintenance, medical services or safety. What Hole in the Wall values is children, who will never know how much diligence it takes to do things right, and they shouldn’t. They are, after all, kids. The parents’ decision to send their child is met by the staff with diligence and focus on the well-being and happiness of the camper. Parents benefit from a week of relief. Siblings benefit from getting the undivided attention of their parents, and may even be lucky enough to attend as a sibling camper during the last session, strengthening bonds between brothers and sisters. These children supported by the work of the Hole the Wall organization were dealt an absolutely terrible hand of cards and face things that no child should have to face. The camp gives them the opportunity to be kids again, which medicine can sometimes forget to stress. At camp, the devastating effects of disease can cease to exist because children are not identified by their diagnosis, but by their name instead. The staff sees the child and not the disease. So simple. The love and support of parents is supplemented by a network of counselors and staff who constantly stress the Hole in the Wall message of “Yes, you can!” Campers blossom in a week, often in a day, and when they see this happen in other campers, they realize they aren’t alone in their battle against disease. Each summer, I find a way to get back to CT and spend two weeks in the presence of their greatness. This organization isn’t about illness, it isn’t about doctors visits or status symbols or celebrity. It is about the children, that they may see and be seen, be acknowledged and celebrated. This principle is in everything- in the food, at the archery range, at the fishing dock, in every single thing. Hole in the Wall celebrates the glory and life of the children. Newman’s kindness is everywhere on camp- in the dining hall, in the rafters of the theatre, at the campfire. The kids and staff understand that presence. Each week I am there, I leave exhausted, in the best way possible. I give all I can to them, and they deserve that. This place always helps me to re-focus and know again what is important in this life. For that, I thank Hole in the Wall not for what they do not for the children, but for what they do for me. The only bad thing about this camp is that as a camper, you have to have a life-threatening illness to go there. There are no ordinary days at Hole in the Wall- never have been, never will be. Every day is cherished. If I had my way, I would never leave there. I would stay and do work with this level of meaning forever. I will be back this summer, and will keep coming back until they don’t need me to wait for the thousands of children that aren’t able to attend due to the overwhelming need.