By: Alexa Hirschberg
The Camp’s signature summer program offers the joy of a camping experience while seamlessly incorporating 24-hour medical supervision. Serving campers with cancer, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, HIV/AIDS, metabolic illnesses, and other blood diseases, each summer the camp offers 7 week-long sessions for children aged 7-15, and one for siblings. Outside of the summer months, the Camp buzzes with year-round programs such as outreach activities to hospitals and clinics across the Northeast, family weekends, and camper reunions.
Founded by Paul Newman, Hole in the Wall is now part of a global network of thirty SeriousFun camps. This camp was named after the gang in Newman’s film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The gang at Hole in the Wall is robust, serving more than 25,000 children and family members annually. On the campsite, a ratio of one staff member to two campers is maintained at all times, as physicians, nurses, and volunteers of all ages come from across the country to join the gang year after year.
In the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to join the gang. I was selected to be a volunteer counselor during the sickle cell anemia week. Throughout the week, I saw Newman’s vision of ensuring that “every child, no matter their illness, could experience the transformational spirit and friendships that go hand in hand with camp” come to life.
Camp activities included archery, woodworking, boating, and endless dance parties. At these programs, I encouraged campers to conquer challenges in a safe environment. The medical presence was significant, yet unobtrusive; when possible, medical care was brought to the children so that they wouldn’t miss out on an activity. Routine care was available around-the-clock in a state of the art facility that did not resemble a hospital or clinic; the infirmary walls were covered in colorful paintings, the medical staff dressed in camp uniform, and countless games, puzzles, and toys were available. Together with the medical staff, all volunteers ensured that campers got a healthy dose of fun.
This coming summer, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp will be celebrating 30 years of providing a safe space where every kid can “kick back, relax, and raise a little hell.”
Applications to volunteer at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for Summer 2018 will be available January 2, 2018.
*This public forum represents the author's opinions based on both personal experience and informal interviews. As such, it is not approved copy by the organization.