Diary of a Mensch
Around 1985 he came up with the idea for a summer camp for children with life-threatening diseases: cancer, sickle-cell anemia, H.I.V./aids. He envisioned the camp as a place where kids can experience the joys of childhood without compromising their medical needs. Campers would pay nothing. The idea popped into his head one morning, and Newman told Life magazine in 1988, “I’ve had friends who died young. Life is whimsical. Longevity is an incredible gift, and some people don’t get to enjoy it.” Newman named the camp the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, after Butch Cassidy’s group of outlaws. He wanted the site—300 sweeping, wooded acres in Ashford, Connecticut, with a big lake fronting the property—to be unconventionally designed, like a Western town Butch might have lived in...This past year, at one of the usual meetings of parents and children at the original camp, Newman showed up; crowds pressed close. The mother of one little girl spoke to Ray Lamontagne, the head of the camp’s board. Her daughter wanted to tell Paul Newman something, but she couldn’t get over to him because she was in a wheelchair. Lamontagne fought his way through the crowd and brought Newman back to the little girl, and he knelt down by her wheelchair. “For the first time in my life I have a friend,” the little girl told him. “I’ve never had a friend before, because I’ve been in a wheelchair most of my life, so kids avoided me. So thank you, Mr. Newman, for this camp.” Newman had tears in his eyes.