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Founder & History

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was founded in 1988 by Paul Newman with one simple premise in mind: to provide opportunities for children with serious illnesses to experience the transformational spirit and friendships that go hand-in-hand with camp.

Founder Paul Newman
Founder Paul Newman with the kids.

A legendary actor and visionary philanthropist, Paul Newman founded The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in 1988 so children with serious illnesses could just be kids, and “raise a little hell” while experiencing diverse and transformational friendships that go hand-in-hand with Camp. Paul’s innovative spirit, creativity and playfulness remain at the heart of all Hole in the Wall programming. His legacy is carried on each year by the thousands of donors, volunteers, staff and other friends who have made his dream their own.

A Little History

Newman announced his plans to build The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in 1986, and in June 1988, Camp opened. When the campers arrived, they found a kid-sized old west setting inspired by “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and filled with traditional summer camp programs adapted so that children with physical and medical limitations could participate. The accessibility of the programs along with a significant, yet unobtrusive medical presence allowed campers to embrace possibilities and safely challenge perceived limitations. Among kindred spirits facing similar challenges, they escaped isolation and found a community defined by acceptance.

Aerial View of The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp
June 18, 1988: The first campers arrive

In 1989, the healing power of Hole in the Wall extended to families with the introduction of a summer session for the healthy siblings of campers. In 1992, parents got in on the fun when the Camp introduced the first Change of Pace Experience (COPE) weekend. Then in 2002, one charismatic counselor, armed with paints and craft projects, ventured into a Connecticut hospital and proved that the fun and friendship experienced at Camp were portable. That is how the Hospital Outreach Program began and today more than 30 full-time specialists are serving nearly 40 locations from Boston to Philadelphia. Then in 2013, CampOut was launched, bringing the fun and friendship of Camp directly into camper homes and communities.

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