It was never a secret that Academy and Cannes Film Festival Award Winner Paul Newman had a lust for living like no other. Whether it was his love of race car driving, cooking or even using his clout to liberal causes, the center of Newman’s world were his wife, Actress Joanne Woodward, and his children. Today, almost ten years after he passed away from cancer, children are still the beneficiary of his dedication to children at a camp in Israel in a Jordan River Village.
The Jordan River VillageCamp, part of Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network, has been open for nearly 7 years. In that time, the camp has welcomed 9,400 campers living with serious illnesses and disabilities in 235 camper sessions. Over 1,000 volunteers participated each year(with more than 4500 session volunteers since opening), hosted1,200 Families in 65 Family Weekend Sessions with 3,400 family members. More than 100 special needs schools have joined in 91 sessions in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. Over 10,000 campers will be joining the camp this summer!
The Newman family is still very much involved in the camp. According to Clea Newman, Ambassador, SeriousFun Children’s Network, and daughter of Newman and Woodward, ” This camp holds a special place in my both my parents’ hearts since my Dad filmed a movie there. Jordan River Village is not only critical to achieving the SeriousFun Children’s Network mission of delivering life-changing programs to kids with serious illnesses all over the world, but it is helping children throughout the Middle East envision a life full of possibilities. My Dad was so thrilled to know there would be a special program in Israel and would be proud of the extraordinary impact Jordan River Village is having.”
Gail Androphy is the Executive Director of theAmerican Friends of Jordan River Village Foundation. Androphy pointed out to me that this camp supports Jews of all religious backgrounds and non-Jews who don’t have to worry about cost or politics. It was Paul Newman’s dream to have seriously ill youngsters “raise a bit of hell” and enjoy camp life like children everywhere else.
The camp is located in the lower Galilee region of Israel, west of Tiberius. Newman, half Jewish, spent time in Israel filming Exodus.
SeriousFun Children’s Network, founded by Paul Newman, is a growing global community of independently managed and financed camps and programs serving children with serious illnesses and their families. The name “SeriousFun” captures Paul’s belief in the power of taking fun seriously and was an expression he liked and used. The name reflects both the “serious” components of impact and outcomes and the “fun” experience of camp
The mission is to create opportunities for children with serious illnesses and their families to reach beyond illness and discover joy, confidence and a new world of possibilities, always free of charge. Each SeriousFun camp is an independent, not-for-profit organization dependent upon private funding to serve children free of charge. SeriousFun programming and facilities are skillfully adapted to fit the different cultures and medical conditions of campers. Every attempt is made to be inclusive and accessible. Through its Global Partnership Program, SeriousFun also collaborates with other international organizations to deliver the camp experience to children with illnesses in resource- limited locations.
The medical expertise at camps enables them to support children with more than 50 different types of conditions including cancer, HIV, blood disorders, heart diseases, neurologic conditions, and genetic and metabolic disorders. Through intentional programming delivered through camp and outreach programs, children are empowered to reach beyond the barriers of their conditions to build connections and foster resilience.
According to a 2014-2015 evaluation of SeriousFun camps by Yale University’s Child Study Center, parents of children with serious illnesses found that children showed improved confidence, higher self-esteem, a greater sense of independence and increased interest in social activities after attending camp. The study also found that the combination of dynamics at SeriousFun camps – including friendships made, supportive social network, and improved relationship skills developed – all support campers’ capacity for resilience.
Another part of history is taking place this summer in Israel and it is not too late to get involved.