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Video Length: 1:55 Minutes

At this special camp, children are encouraged to "raise a little hell"

“Despair and hopelessness are big words to describe how a little girl feels, but that was how it was," Lace Garbatini recalls.

Her daughter, Amanda, has had cancer eight times — five different types and three relapses.

The first diagnosis came when she was just 11 years old. Amanda was told that she had a tumor in her leg and it was cancerous. Her childhood quickly went from carefree days to numerous hospital visits, chemotherapy and surgeries.

The illness took a toll not only on Amanda’s body, but on her mental health as well. That’s when a social worker stepped in.

"'What you’re going through is really awful,'" she told Amanda, "'but I have something that might make you feel a little better,’” Lace remembers.

The social worker told Amanda about The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut, a summer camp for kids and families dealing with serious illnesses. Founded in 1988 by actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, the camp strives to give every child, no matter their illness, the inimitable experience of freedom and lastings friendships that often bloom at summer camps.

Pearson Pond at Hole in the Wall Gang camp The summer camp is located in picturesque Ashford, CT. (Photo: The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp)

“During my first week at camp, I met a girl my age that had a tumor in her leg just like I did. We shared an instant connection and in that moment, I knew I wasn't alone. Meeting other children who have been through similar experiences has a healing power beyond words," Amanda shares.

Along with traditional summer programs adapted for children with medical or physical limitations, the bucolic campgrounds also provides unobtrusive, expert medical care, giving children the freedom to let loose while still maintaining their health.

The Connecticut camp is part of Paul Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network, an umbrella organization with a community of 30 worldwide camps, all inspired by the original The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Gabartini sits on ledge near water Gabartini, pictured here on the docks of the beloved summer camp. (Photo: The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp)

Thanks to the camp and support from Newman’s Own, Amanda is now a thriving athlete today, from ice climbing in New Hampshire to winning a wheelchair marathon in Disney World.

“Coming to camp is an empowering experience because you get a little bit of your childhood back. It gave me my fight back. I really don’t know where my life would be without camp,” Amanda says.

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp logo

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was founded in 1988 by Paul Newman with one simple premise in mind: that every child, no matter their illness, could experience the transformational spirit and friendships that go hand-in-hand with camp.

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