Over The Wall's History

“Laughter may very well be the best medicine” – Paul Newman

As a screen legend and Hollywood icon, Paul Newman’s career in film, TV and stage spanned over six decades. Over those years, Paul appeared in 62 films, receiving ten Oscar nominations and a win for his performance in The Colour of Money. In addition to these achievements, Paul was also a director, producer and accomplished race car driver, but it was in December in 1980, that his philanthropic endeavours began.

Paul Newman and campers at Hole in the wall gang

Creating Camp – and ‘raising a little hell’

In 1988, with the profits generated from Newman’s Own products, Paul decided to create a purpose-built residential activity camp, free to children with serious illness, based in Connecticut. He named it the ‘Hole in the Wall Gang Camp’- a title inspired by his film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Paul’s dream was to provide a place where children could escape the limitations of their illness and to “kick back and raise a little hell.”

The camp provided an accessible programme of fun, within a medically sound environment, that enabled the children to safely challenge the limitations of their illness. Camp was intended to be an accepting place, where campers could forget about illness and connect with other children facing similar challenges. This led to the launch of other camps in the US, then further afield. A global movement had developed, which later became known as the SeriousFun Children’s Network.

Camper on zip wire at Over The Wall Camp

Over The Wall is born

It was after the businessman Joe Woods, had arranged for children from the UK to be flown to The Hole in The Wall Gang in the US, that a friendship between himself and Paul Newman developed. In 1999, the two of them made the decision to set up a camp in the UK, that was later named Over The Wall.

When Over The Wall first launched, it catered for 25 children with cancer. After that first camp, the charity went from strength to strength, providing camps for various illnesses across several different locations in the UK. We celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2019 and provided free residential activity camps for over 1,000 campers.

Since launching, Over The Wall has provided magical camp experiences for more than 8,000 children and their families and now accommodates for over 130 different illnesses. The camps are spread across the UK in areas including Dorset, Northamptonshire, South Wales, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Perth and Fife.

Over The Wall continues to keep Paul Newman’s dream alive in the UK, by providing a safe environment where children with illness can thrive and ‘raise hell’, in a world of mischief, magic and new possibilities.