Twenty years ago I started a summer job that left an indelible mark on my life. In the summer of 1996, I traveled to Ashford, CT, to work as a cabin counselor at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. I have no doubt that I wouldn't be the person I am today or be doing what I'm doing today without my experience at this magical place.
It's difficult to put into words just what this camp is and does. Yes, it's that camp that Paul Newman founded. Yes, it is for children with critical illnesses, but no, it's not a sad place. It's the most joyous, life-affirming piece of land on this Earth. I'm lucky to have spent several summers there.
I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the fact that it's been two decades since I was introduced to this place. I'm lucky to still be in touch with several of the friends I made that summer. I'm luckier still to have created memories with some friends who are no longer with us.
I kept copious photojournals during my time at Hole in the Wall. I wrote down stories about every camper I had the honor of taking care of. I'll be pouring over these recorded memories in the coming days. In this photo, I'm pictured with my co-counselor Joe. We were a solid team that summer in cabin Purple 10. Three months of ushering new sets of campers to P10.
I've put nods to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in several of my books. In Good Night, Monkey Boy—look for the cowboy hat on the floor. In Baghead and My Buddy, Slug—look for the sports jerseys that call out cabins like Yellow 5 and Red 8. And this summer in Star Wars: Jedi Academy: A New Class—look for the droid named P-10.