Today the great Paul Newman, my hero, would have turned 90 years of age. I’ve written at length about his incredible achievements and will continue to spread his philosophy and outlook on life throughout this year, alongside the SeriousFun Children’s Network. Newman founded the charity that provides camps the world over for children and families affected by serious illness. The magical world of camp, which has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of sick kids worldwide, has only been possible thanks to Newman’s brilliant drive and determination that good should conquer in the face of adversity, and that we all should live our lives in pursuit of the common good, in everything we do. Camp should not have worked. Newman’s vision of The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp was unrealistic and unobtainable, up against every conceivable obstacle. And yet it opened, welcoming the first campers just 18 months after Paul’s spark of imagination. Many incredible people and powers had to come together to make things work, but camp only exists, and continues to thrive, thanks to one bizarre ingredient.
From a young age Paul would make his own salad dressings. He would often turn up at restaurants and ask for individual ingredients and a mixing bowl to be brought to the table so he could dress his own salads. For most of his life it was a hobby. Until one winter evening before Christmas, Newman needed to let off some steam. He went into the basement, where an old bathtub stood, and started mixing up gallons of ingredients to make an entire vat of his salad dressing. When finished, he gathered empty bottles from around the house, slapped on blank labels and scrawled “Newman’s Own” across dozens of bottles. He delivered them as Christmas presents across the neighbourhood, and dropped the rest off at a local convenience store. His neighbours were soon shouting for more and Newman, together with his long time pal AE Hotchner, figured he was onto something. Hotchner bet Paul he couldn’t get his salad dressing onto supermarket shelves.
Newman couldn’t resist the challenge. Against all odds, and with Heinz, Hellman’s and many other vast companies trying everything they could to shut them down, Newman’s Own food compnay was started. Basically as a joke. To top it all off, Newman decided that every penny of profit would be donated to charity. It was the salad dressings that funded a large part of Hole In The Wall, and to this day continues to fund camps around the world. As Newman put it: “Let’s give it all away to those who need it.”
Newman’s drive and ‘anything is possible’ attitude forms a bedrock of everything we do at camp. Whenever I’m at camp, I tell stories about Newman and his incredible achievements to the campers, who gasp amazed at what the man accomplished. His life inspires them, along with the volunteers, to run faster, climb higher and do more. The spark in his eyes, the belief that sick kids should be allowed to just be kids, lives on and changes lives year after year after year. As Paul said: “It’s not that the kids say ‘Thanks for a wonderful time, it’s that they say ‘Thank you for changing my life.'”.
So buy Newman’s Own salad dressings. Buy his pasta sauce. The sockarooni sauce is particularly awesome (as is its name!). Every penny goes to charity, including some brilliant food and green initiatives.
The story of how camp was created is unlike any other. I implore you to watch this documentary about The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp and its miraculous creation. It’s a good ‘un.
On behalf of campers, families and camp volunteers worldwide: Thank You Paul!