Paul Newman’s “The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp” Vision Expands - by James Mapes

More than two decades ago, Paul Newman had a vision of possibility with no idea how to make it a reality. As all great visions begin, he started with a “What if…” question. What if children with serious illnesses had a chance to just be children and have fun in a safe and nurturing environment? Paul Newman, being a great prankster, could not avoid adding, “…and a place where children could raise a little hell.”
Indeed, there is endless fun while at The Hole in The Wall Gang Camp. Children engage safely in boating, fishing, horseback riding, swimming, archery crafts, sports and other recreation. There is even a 900-ft zip-line!
Each summer more than 1,000 children between the ages of seven and fifteen, who have been diagnosed with cancer, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia and other serious illnesses, attend the camp in Ashford, Connecticut. Approximately 4,000 children are served through the weekend programs that run from fall through spring. More than half of the children come from low-income backgrounds. All the activities and programs are free and supported primarily by the generosity of corporate donations.
Now, the vision has expanded both within the camp and beyond. There are Campouts, Family Weekends, Parent Programs, the Hero’s Journey, the Alumni Program and the Hospital Outreach program. Hospital Outreach has served approximately 15,000 attendees through the years by bringing “a variety of innovative, creative, fun and highly appealing activities to children in hospitals on a regular basis.” The Hospital Outreach specialists are expertly trained in The Hole in The Wall Gang Camp’s philosophy and techniques. These specialists work collaboratively with hospital staff to enhance, augment and support existing programs focused on improving the quality of life during treatment. The Hospital Outreach Program continues to bring the joy and fun of the Camp’s summer programming to seriously ill children year-round – around the world.
Being part of the Westport, Connecticut community, along with Paul Newman and his wife, Joanne Woodward, and being acquaintances of both, my wife and I had heard about this project for years. While I greatly admired the idea, I never had the opportunity to take Paul up on an invitation to become involved until I was recently asked to kick off the two-day conference with my wellness program, MIND OVER BODY: Harness Vision to Create a Wellness Strategy, at the camp for the Hospital Outreach Conference. There would be a total of 60 specialists from around the world, comprised of 17 sister camps, including Ireland, Great Britain, Italy, Hungary and France.
At the wooden archway entrance to the camp, I was struck by the beauty of the fall day as reflected on the 44-acre lake surrounded by 300 wooded acres, 50% occupied by outbuildings, including a maintenance building, dorms, office and the central cafeteria. There are more than 40 building in this space and all are accessible to children who may face mobility issues. The 300-seat, well-equipped theater where I spoke, would be the envy of any Broadway producer.
Mary Naumec, Director of Hospital Outreach and member of the staff, greeted me with the greatest of warmth. After completing my audio/visual set-up, we shared a breakfast in the playfully decorated dining facility where I was introduced to: CEO James “Jimmy” Canton; the exuberant Camp Director Padraig Barry; Chief Development Officer Ken Alberti; Medical Director Sharon Space; Chief Communications Officer Ray Thompson and former Camp Director and now Founder of the “Hero’s Journey” Program, Matthew Cook, with whom I bonded with instantly and intensely.
I love my speaking and every once in a while, the experience is so profoundly moving that I feel I’ve been presented with a huge gift that I want to share. That was the case with my time spent with The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp.
MIND OVER BODY is a synthesis of lessons I’ve learned from working with leaders and athletes, peak performance coaching and helping patients prepare for surgery, as well as teaching relaxation and visualization technique to achieve wellness. This bundle of information is wrapped in the strategies learned from my own open-heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurism. While the program is full of insightful and fun interaction and stories (including Paul Newman getting me into race car driving), the lessons are profound and deep. I suggest those in attendance can ramp up their ability to keep a positive attitude in the direst of circumstances and understand that they can use the power of applied imagination to help them and others create a vison of wellness
Keep in mind, every Hospital Outreach specialist faces numerous challenges, including dealing with upsetting situations and striving to keep their spirit renewed. What amazed, delighted and inspired me was their absolute vulnerability and willingness to look inwards, discover, participate and share. It was an electrifying two hours. These courageous and compassionate men and woman are true warriors. They’re on the front lines binging the hopeful, healing and playful spirit of The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp to children and families, offering unique, creative and developmentally appropriate activities and interactions to help restore joy and laughter in a time often laden with fear, stress and uncertainty.
If this sounds like a love letter to Paul Newman’s The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp, it is. If you are not familiar with the camp, I want you to click on the link below. This is just one of the inspiring success stories available on line. Who knows? You might be as moved and inspired as I am and wish to become a supporter of this miraculous vision of hope and wellness.

Author's Bio: 

James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best- selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, seminar leader and personal excellence coach. For over 30 years, James has been an ardent student of human behavior and dedicated to helping individuals, teams and organizations identify and break through barriers to reach their goals and achieve success. He encourages people to be open to new ways of thinking, and his goal is to help everyone make the “quantum leap” toward more creative, productive and confident lives. For both businesses and individuals, his message promotes an innovative, powerful way of thinking and provides a new-found mastery over their imagination and perceptions so that, in his words, “the invisible becomes visible and the impossible becomes possible.” The results have been nothing short of extraordinary, creating key breakthroughs in both organizational and personal excellence.

James Mapes’ success as a speaker and highly regarded authority on the imagination, creative thinking, communication, managing change, organizational problem-solving, successful teamwork, leadership and coaching is due to his early training as an actor and experience as a theatrical producer. In 1969, he graduated from California State University with a Master of Arts degree in theater and speech. He then worked in repertory theater, off-Broadway and directed two of his own theater companies, amassing dozens of television and movie credits. As a performer, he developed a unique stage presence with a special talent for connecting with his audience. Mapes’ work has earned him appearances on CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America and Fox Family Channel, among other media outlets.

As a recognized business speaker and performance coach, James has spoken to hundreds of public and private companies in more than 70 countries. His clients include financial institutions, software companies, the military, the healthcare industry, financial institutions, training and development divisions of large corporations and major non-profit organizations. Companies, associations, universities and business schools including – IBM Corporate, U.S. Coast Guard, Lockheed Martin and The Princeton Center for Leadership Training – have quoted Mapes in training manuals and textbooks.

James Mapes personal goal of living an exceptional life is reflected in both his business activities as well as his recreational pursuits, which range from scuba-diving, ballooning, racecar driving, Kempo Karate, and world travel, to an avid interest in reading. His two highly regarded books are Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner’s Guide to the Mind and The Workbook: The Magic of Quantum Leap Thinking. His new book Imagine That! Igniting Your Brain for Creativity and Peak Performance is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2015 and his newest 2-CD program – Patient Pre-Op/Post-Op Healing Therapy – was released January 2013.

James Mapes presentations are personal, interactive and humorous. Above all, he creates results and makes a lasting difference in the energy level, commitment and productivity of each individual in his audience.

In the 1970’s, James became interested in the power of the subconscious mind. To better understand this intriguing area, he researched psychology, philosophy, neurology and eventually, hypnotherapy Neuro-Linguistic Programming. His expertise quickly earned him recognition as a clinical hypnotist, becoming highly effective in assisting clients in weight reduction, smoking cessation, the elimination of phobias and pain reduction for terminally ill cancer patients. As a skilled practitioner of regression techniques, he helped the New York City Police Department in “memory recovery” with both witnesses to, and victims of, crime and he has worked with professional athletes to help improve their performance in their sport.

James Mapes has created an ongoing series of self-improvement audio recordings and writes a syndicated newspaper column for Hearst newspapers in Connecticut and The Arizona Reporter. James also enjoys presenting his one-man show, Journey Into the Imagination at performing arts centers and universities around the country. He appeared on Broadway in 2003 and presented A Whirlwind Tour of the Mind at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in Manhattan in 2007. When not touring, James and his wife divide their time between residences in Westport, Connecticut, and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.