“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, Newman was also a director, producer and accomplished race car driver, but it was in December in 1980, that his philanthropic endeavours began…

Butch and the bathtub…

A few days before Christmas, Paul called his friend, the playwright and novelist, A.E Hotchner, asking him if he could come over and ‘help him with something’. When Hotchner arrived, he found Paul stirring a bathtub full of vinegar and olive oil, next to several old wine bottles. Paul had decided to create his own salad dressing, and after mixing the first batch, they bottled it up before distributing it as gifts whilst carol singing in the local area. The dressing was such a hit with the locals, that is wasn’t long before they were asking for more. As demand grew, a business was born. When Paul and Hotchner considered what to do with the money, Paul said, “Let’s give it all away to those who need it!”

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.

Camp in the UK – Over The Wall

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 in 2020 we will provide free residential activity camps for as many as 1,200 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’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.