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Aetna Foundation Awards $100,000 Grant to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

For Immediate Release
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Willow Ann Sirch
Communciations Director
The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp
(203) 772-0522 x23 

Aetna Foundation Awards $100,000 Grant to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

Funds Support Programs for Children and Families Coping with Sickle Cell Disease  

NEW HAVEN, CONN., November 5, 2012 – Children and their families grappling with sickle cell disease are able to experience special programming offered by The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, thanks to a $100,000 leadership grant from the Aetna Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Aetna (NYSE: AET).

The Aetna Foundation funding is helping the organization established in 1988 by the late actor Paul Newman provide comprehensive services free of charge to children afflicted with the disease. The programs include summer camp sessions and family retreat weekends at the camp’s 344-acre facility in Ashford, Conn., and weekly in-patient visits to children hospitalized in the Northeast.

“At The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, children with serious health conditions not only can enjoy just being a kid, they also gain valuable skills in managing their disorder and build a life-changing network of support,” said Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation. “The result is a powerful experience that can empower kids with sickle cell disease to lead healthier lives. We are pleased to be able to help The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp strengthen its efforts to reach children grappling with this difficult chronic condition.”

A vastly underserved disease, sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that changes normally round red blood cells into a sickle-like or crescent shape. Sickle-shaped blood cells can get stuck in blood vessels, blocking normal blood flow, which can lead to serious infections, intense pain episodes and organ failure. Infants inherit the disease when both parents are carriers of the sickle cell trait. Babies may start exhibiting symptoms as early as four months of age. The lifelong disease is most prevalent among African Americans and affects about 1 in 400 African-American newborns.

Jimmy Canton, chief executive officer at The Hole in Wall Gang Camp, says that kids with sickle cell anemia form the largest disease group, representing nearly a third of those attending the nonprofit’s onsite summer programs for seriously ill children.

“The Aetna Foundation’s grant will help us provide ‘a different kind of healing’ to children and their families coping with this disease,” said Canton.  “Through its generosity, we have hosted two empowering and joyful weekend retreats this fall, designed to foster friendship, challenge perceived limitations and strengthen vital support networks.”

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp serves children with sickle cell disease at six out of its nine summer sessions, with two sessions devoted specifically for children with advanced cases.  While at camp, children receive round-the-clock medical care, disease-management skills, and facilitated peer interactions. The program provides universally accessible activity areas that help campers increase their self-confidence and bolster their feelings of being in control.

The recent Aetna Foundation grant to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp complements additional long-time support from Aetna and its employees. Since 2009, Aetna has sponsored the organization’s Camp Challenge Ride initiative, helping raise more than $1.5 million.  This year, Team Aetna, composed of 125 employees and their families, participated in the 2012 fund-raising ride.  Additionally, several hundred Aetna employees volunteer annually at the Ashford campsite to ready the facility for its summer programs. Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s chairman, CEO and president, serves on the nonprofit’s board of directors.

About the Aetna Foundation
The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed $413 million in grants and sponsorships, including $19.2 million in 2011. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered more than 2.6 million hours since 2003. Aetna’s current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S.; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care. For more information, visit

About Aetna
Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 37.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities, Medicaid health care management services and health information technology services. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see  

About The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp
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 children and their families coping with cancer, sickle cell anemia and other serious illnesses. Through summer sessions and family weekend programs at the Camp in Ashford, Connecticut, and year-round outreach to hospitals and clinics throughout the Northeast, the Camp serves more than 20,000 children and family members annually. All services are free of charge.