3 Simple Lessons Clea Newman Is Carrying Into 2022

3 Simple Lessons Clea Newman Is Carrying Into 2022

SeriousFun Ambassador Clea Newman takes a look back and a look ahead.

NORWALK, CT (December 29, 2021) – As another challenging year closes, I’ve been reflecting on how the power of camp continues to be there for kids — despite obstacles that could have made it impossible. The word “impossible” has been on my mind a lot lately. As always, I’m holding close some words of wisdom from my dad, Paul Newman. He often said, “If it seems impossible, we’ll do it anyway,” of course, with that grin of his.

And he took action to prove it. He meant it when he defied the odds and began a successful auto racing career at the age of 47 (much to my mother’s chagrin). Later in life, Dad began turning down black-tie events by explaining that his tuxedo had passed on (indeed, as I recall, he burned it on his 70th birthday). So, when others told my dad he could never build a state-of-the-art camp for kids with serious medical conditions in just one year, he didn’t take no for an answer. In 1988, Pop made good on his promise. He found a way to make the impossible prospect ahead of him a reality. And he did it with the help of a community that shared his belief that every child deserves the opportunity to feel and act like a kid, regardless of their medical condition.

Paul Newman and campers gather around a picnic table at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the first SeriousFun camp, in Connecticut.

That one camp sparked a global movement. All of these years later, SeriousFun Children’s Network is now made up of 30 camps and programs — all helping children and families reclaim joy, rebuild connection, and rediscover hope amidst illness. As I think about our camp community and this seemingly impossible feat, I’m reminded of three simple lessons we at SeriousFun continue to take to heart as we carry on Pop’s dream now and in the future. 

Always, Always Be Adaptable

Families pick-up CAMP in a BOX near Flying Horse Farms, the SeriousFun camp in Ohio.

I continue to be inspired by the SeriousFun community’s determination to adapt to the changing world around us with a clear focus on safety. When we couldn’t share a meal or gather around a campfire, we shared the warmth of our friends with Camp-at-Home activities like virtual singalongs. When the pandemic posed new safety risks, our global network of medical experts came together to share best practices with each other. Whenever an obstacle presented itself, we took the challenge head on, determined to make camp more accessible to families around the world. In the past two years, given the nature of virtual programming, we’ve reached more parents and caregivers than ever before.

Embrace Innovation, It Might Surprise You

A camper gets a ride down the mountain during an adaptive winter sports program at Solaputi Kids’ Camp, the SeriousFun camp in Japan.

Whether it be in-person or virtual, camp memories are still being made by children all over the world. None of that would be possible without innovation. The meticulous, safety-first design of camp facilities makes it possible for kids in wheelchairs to fly through the sky on adaptive zip lines. Delicious s’more varieties make it possible for every child to enjoy a treat, regardless of dietary needs. Innovation has always been essential to what we do. And during an ongoing pandemic, it’s become an invitation to not only make camp as safe as ever but to make it possible for more kids to participate.

We’ve expanded hospital outreach programming, and created new programs to engage kids in their homes, in ways that go beyond the residential camp experience. We will always be committed to serving children and families that nobody else can serve. As the past year and a half has proven, our desire to innovate quite literally knows no bounds.

Remember, Your Community Has Your Back

A camper holds up a handmade thank you sign for counselors and staff.

I remain immensely grateful to everyone who gives, in whatever way they can, to keep Dad’s dream alive. Because it’s no longer just his dream. He passed his dream on, to be nurtured and shaped by our community’s collective visions and actions. Ultimately, it’s our dream now, too.

From our big-hearted donors to our tireless doctors and volunteers, I am so appreciative for the love and kindness. It’s through the power of our SeriousFun family that we are able to continue pushing forward innovative approaches and commitments to the children and families we serve. Especially nowadays — and following groundbreaking study results that reflect the long-term impact of camp on our alumni — it’s clear our community is what makes the SeriousFun mission possible. We carry that with us at every step.

SeriousFun camps and programs have never just been about camp the place. They’ve always been about camp the people. It’s the people that make “impossible” just a word. It’s the people that make Pop’s promise to “just do it anyway” a reality.

Thank you, thank you, thank you,

Clea Newman

Learn More About SeriousFun Children’s Network