McKinney Mommas: Paul Newman's SeriousFun Children's Network - Camp For Kids With Serious Illnesses Google+

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Paul Newman's SeriousFun Children's Network - Camp For Kids With Serious Illnesses

Always on the lookout for people who "DO GOOD", I discovered a cool organization, founded by Paul Newman called SeriousFun Children's Network

It's a program that runs camps for children with serious illnesses, where laughter, fun, games and playing with others helps them to forget about their illness for a short time and just enjoy being a kid.  

In Paul Newman's words, the kids are allowed to: "Kick back and raise a little hell."


I hope I never have to endure the terrible ordeal of having a child with a serious illness, but for the families that are bravely fighting for the health of their children - the SeriousFun camps offer them a small but very necessary break.

I recently had an awesome opportunity to interview Alyson Fox - Director for the Global Partnership Program at SeriousFun, to find out more about SeriousFun Network and the good they are spreading to children everywhere.

Interview With Alyson Fox
1. Do SeriousFun camps just change the lives of terminally ill children, or does it affect their family too?

When children with a serious illness attend a SeriousFun camp, this experience has a long-lasting impact on both children and families. In many cases, this is the first time that children have been separated from their families which is an incredible milestone for everyone involved. Parents of children with a serious illness rarely get a break as they are on duty 24/7. Parents can leave their children at a SeriousFun camp with the confidence that all staff and volunteers are well-trained, passionate, and committed individuals whose sole purpose is to create a fun, safe and memorable experience geared to each child’s needs and interests. Safety and medical care are highly professional and intentionally inconspicuous.

Since 2010, the Yale School of Medicine has surveyed and interviewed hundreds of SeriousFun campers and their parents. Results of this ongoing study give scientific support to what our staff around the world have seen, heard and known for years. Our camps do more than just give kids a fun-filled, memorable week. They have a profound and long-lasting impact. By creating a place where children with serious illnesses can connect with others like themselves, along with carefully trained and caring adults, SeriousFun camps and programs enable kids to reach beyond the barriers of their conditions. This unique experience helps build important connections that foster resilience and support their growth in the face of challenge, restore their hope for the future, renew their spirit of childhood, and regain their sense of possibility.

2. Do you have a favorite or memorable story of a child's experience at SeriousFun camp?

I work with our global partnership programs in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and so I’ve been lucky enough to see the magic of SeriousFun camp translated into so many languages, cultures, and geographies. And the wonder of it all is that no matter where you go – whether you’re in Malawi, Cambodia, or Haiti – kids are kids and the magic of camp is universal. 

While I have so many amazing memories, there is one that stands out about a camper in India named Anita. She was 12 years old, an orphan living with HIV, staying with relatives and taking care of her little brother, and she was painfully shy. She was a bit of a tom-boy, wearing a hat low enough to hide her eyes, and was most happy drawing, reluctant to join group activities. During free choice, her camp counselors would ask her what she wanted to do, and inevitably she would always ask to sit on the side with a 3 foot roll of poster paper drawing and coloring an intricate picture of a house and a rainbow. Soon enough though, the other campers were curious, came over to investigate and see what she was doing. They asked if they could join her and color too. Soon she was surrounded by a group of campers making similar drawings. I could see her look around, slightly uncomfortable at first, inching away from the group, but then you could see a switch go off, her posture straighten, her hat pulled back, and she was asking the other campers for different color pencils and giving them instructions on how they should complete their drawings. 

 Later in the week, campers were preparing their “Stage Night” skits, and Anita’s counselor said that Anita had a question for me. “Can this be my skit?” she said. And with both arms held up as wide as can be, she presented her finished drawing high above her head. I couldn’t believe the intricacy of details and colors included in her drawing and I was incredibly touched by the way in which she was interacting with me. “Absolutely! I have never had a camper ask to show their artwork on stage, and that is a very unique and creative Stage Night skit, Anita. You are clearly a talented artist.” You could see her eyes widen, her smile deepen, and she turned and skipped away. And that night, to great fanfare and drum rolls, Anita was announced for her skit, and she quietly walked on stage, opened her backpack, awkwardly unrolled her drawing, held it up the same way she had earlier, and for a split second of surprise, the camp was quiet, taking in the novelty of this skit…and then, an outburst of cheering, and shouts, and clapping, and every camper and counselor stood to give Anita her standing ovation. 

Beaming with pride, she skipped back to her group, and was bombarded with hugs and high-fives from other campers. And you knew, in that special and precious moment, that her life was changed. Maybe not dramatically, but in discovering what she does well, having the confidence to try something new, having the courage to present in front of her peers, and to be publically praised for it. 

That’s powerful stuff that happens each and every day at SeriousFun camps.

3. What's your favorite Paul Newman salad dressing?

I’d opt for Paul’s original approach to good salad dressing… find what you have in the fridge and be inspired (and brave) enough to make something delicious. But I will say that the Newman’s Own Lime Vinaigrette Dressing is great to use as a marinade for fish on the grill!

4.  How do 100% of donations go directly to benefit the children?

Our founder, Paul Newman, was all about the kids. And, as we continue his legacy, we are committed to the same ideal. That’s why, when you make a donation to SeriousFun Children’s Network, we ensure 100% of your donation goes directly to the camps and programs that provide a life-changing experience free of charge to the children and their families.

All of this is made possible due to the generosity of our Board of Directors and Newman’s Own Foundation. Thanks to their support, all of the administrative expenses of the Support Center, or the SeriousFun main office, are paid for, enabling us to channel your entire donation to benefit those who need it most – the kids.

5. Have you ever meet Paul Newman?
Yes, I was fortunate to meet him a few times when I started working for SeriousFun eight years ago. I remember him at camp. You could walk into the dining hall, and out of the corner of your eye, you’d catch a glimpse of something that stood out. And there he was, sitting at a table in the dining hall, amongst a group of 8 year olds, whole hearted belly-laughing and having the time of his life. I also have a poignant memory of being late to “Stage Night” during a session of camp. “Stage Night” is the pinnacle experience for many campers where they prepare all week to perform a joke, story, song, dance, or just a smile on the stage in front of the entire camp…and always to a standing ovation. And as I ran from the dining hall towards the theater, Paul and Joanne were walking hand in hand on their way to “Stage Night” too. Camp was such an important part of their lives, and we are all so fortunate to have had a humble and inspirational founder.

6. Where are SeriousFun camps offered in the US?

There are nine SeriousFun camps in the US located in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New York, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Michigan.

7. How can interested readers get involved with SeriousFun?

There are a number of ways people can get involved with SeriousFun but the most important thing to remember is to personalize your experience to get the most out of it!

If people are interested in exploring volunteer opportunities with one of our member camps, I’d encourage them to visit our website at Here people can learn more about volunteer opportunities by downloading the 2013 SeriousFun Camps Calendar, or they can visit the individual camp websites listed on this page.

People can also raise money for any and all camps through events and runs from 10ks to marathons, and can learn more about this new endurance program called Team SeriousFun by visiting

Or if people have a child with a serious illness and are interested in learning how their child can attend a SeriousFun camp, they should contact us at

*Disclosure: I was not paid for this post.  This post is part of my mission to simply "do good" and spread awareness about others that are doing good too. :-)

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