Thanks to support from Newman's Own Foundation, children living with serious illnesses can experience the joy, adventure, and magic of camp.
SeriousFun Children's Network provides life changing camp experiences to children with serious illnesses and their families around the world – totally free of charge. At SeriousFun camps, kids get to the chance to just be kids and, as Paul Newman used to say, "raise a little hell." Innovative programs, inclusive activities and adaptive facilities foster independence, resilience and personal growth, helping children to see beyond the limits of their medical conditions and experience all that life has to offer.
At just 13 years old, Nora is a champion for camp, knowing firsthand the incredible impact the experience can have on kids and families. Nora was born with congenital heart disease and spina bifida. Since the age of two, she has had 10 surgeries, lives with a pacemaker and takes medicine every day for chronic pain. Because of her medical condition, she always knew she couldn’t do certain things, like ride a bike. As she got older, she realized how different she was and hoped that one day she would meet someone who understood.
Then she found North Star Reach, the SeriousFun camp in Michigan.
"In just a short span of time, I formed a lasting bond with other kids who understand what I live with every day: they live with it too. We even share the same scars. I felt truly happy to be surrounded by kids who knew what I was going through. Camp has boosted my confidence, made me feel like I am not alone, and made me feel better about my condition."
In 2018, Nora had more surgery on her spine. She was focused on getting better as fast as possible so she could make it back to camp. "The thought of camp was what made me try and sit up and walk, even when I was in a lot of pain. In the end, I was able to go which made me super happy! That summer was one of my best and, as always, I made plenty of new friends."
Nolan lives with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EOE), a rare condition that affects the digestive system and can make swallowing food nearly impossible. For Nolan, it makes experiencing all the fun and joy of childhood a real challenge. Because there are no safe foods for him to eat, he relies on a feeding tube, making activities and social events hard on him. "It causes me to not be able to participate in activities that my friends can do. It can also be hard at school for lunch or going out to restaurants with my family because there's food and smells all around – and not being able to eat, I feel like I can never escape it!"
Then Nolan attended Double H Ranch, the SeriousFun camp in upstate New York. "Before I came to camp, all I used to think about was my disease and constantly being around food. Once I got to camp, it was just the freedom I always wanted. I felt like this is what I'd been waiting for my whole life. It is a place where you can feel safe and there are other kids that understand what it is like to be sick, and they make you feel like a normal kid. Camp is something I live for all year long and I wouldn’t know what I would do if I couldn’t go to camp."
Camp is about more than just fun. These experiences help foster confidence, independence and resilience – having a lifelong impact on campers, families, and volunteers alike! Today, there are 30 SeriousFun camps and programs serving the needs of children living with more than 50 medical conditions around the world. Since Paul Newman opened the very first camp in 1988, SeriousFun has delivered more than one million camp experiences for children and family members totally free of charge, supported by more than 247,500 volunteers.