Sunday, September 28, 2008

Honoring a legend and a friend

I wouldn't be who I am today if it weren't for my years of service to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. For ten summers, either as a staff member or as a volunteer, I dedicated myself to this amazing place located in Ashford, CT. It was by luck that I found the place and by the grace of God I was hired as a staff member in 1996. Over the years I made so many incredible friends and met so many incredible kids who dealt with problems far greater than I could ever comprehend. One of those friends, the one who started it all - has gone on to an even greater place. Every news article I read, every story I see on TV - they all have it wrong. While the greater public do know him best for his movies and have somewhat of an idea of his philanthropic work - Mr. Newman's greatest triumph is in the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and its sister camps. He would have told you that himself.

I first met Mr. Newman during the first session of my first summer. I was 18. As is often the case, when Paul was on camp, a buzz would sweep across the staff. You sort of took every corner wondering if you'd see him. He would appear when you least expected it, without the smallest bit of fanfare. I was in the dining hall, trying to make sure each kid had what they needed when I spun around, only to end up nose to nose with Paul - his blue eyes just inches from mine. He asked if he could sit with us for lunch. He absolutely loved to sit back and watch the fruits of his labor come to life and over the years would always drop by someone's table to have a meal with the campers. And he reveled in the fact that they were somewhat clueless about his movie star status. On one occasion, he pulled up a chair to our table and an 8 year old camper looked at him, with one eyebrow raised. "Who are you?" he asked. "I'm Paul Newman." he responded. The camper looked at him, looked at the carton of Newman's Own Lemonade on the table, looked back to Paul grabbed the carton and said, "Uh uh, you ain't no Paul Newman. This is Paul Newman and you ain't no Paul Newman." The smile on Paul's face couldn't have been wider.

A world without Paul Newman is a very sad thought. But his life is a testament to what a human being can be, it gives us all something to strive towards. Live selflessly and help others - all the while, raise a little Hell in the process.

The video below is a promo that was made to benefit the Association of Hole in the Wall Gang Camps. Please take a moment to watch it and get to know Mr. Newman at his best. How lucky we all are to have had him.


alvina said...

So touching. His work will live on!

ChatRabbit said...

I thought about you when I heard about his passing's so good to hear what he was like behind he scenes. There's your role model right there, kids.