Paul Newman was in Saratoga Springs last week.
He wasn’t there as the actor or the face behind the salad dressing, but to encourage financial support for the Double H Ranch, a camp for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses that he helped found in 1993.
Newman came to The Lodge in Saratoga Springs to assist the camp’s staff in kicking off a $15 million endowment campaign.
Things happen, said New-man of how the Double H came to be a reality. `You get a phone call. It was Charley Wood and he said, ‘I’ll put in a million if you put in a million.’ And that was it.
`Both of us recognize how lucky we are and what terrible mortality is with these kids with life-threatening diseases,` said Newman. `When they come to a camp like this, they are not different.`
Morgan McCarthy, 11, of Saratoga Springs was on hand for Newman’s visit. Currently in her third season as a camper, McCarthy agreed that having the camp well staffed with trained doctors, nurses and counselors allows her to relax and have fun.
`I like having the same experience as average kids. It’s always nice to come to a place where they know what they’re doing and know how to handle it,` said McCarthy. Friendly and engaging, McCarthy spoke candidly about the illness that brings her to camp.
`I have cerebral palsy,` she said, noting that it affects her legs and fingers. `I can do most things that any other human can do. It just needs to be changed a little.`
McCarthy noted that her illness also provides her with abilities that no one else has.
`I can pop my finger out of its socket. See!` she said.
McCarthy and other campers who qualify to attend spend one week each summer at the camp. Campers can be referred by their doctors, hospitals, social workers, other campers, or their own family members. The Double H Ranch serves about 1,000 children each year at an estimated cost of about $1,500 per child. The camp absorbs all costs with the child and their family being responsible only for the transportation to and from camp.
In the off season, the Double H Ranch has created an adaptive winter sports program which allows children with physical limitations to experience downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. About 400 children take advantage of this program each year. Additionally, another 1,200 people are served by a family based fall and spring program.
In an effort to continue the expansion of programs and facilities while maintaining the excellent level of service, the Double H Ranch’s board of directors is seeking to gain enough gifts and pledges to create a fund of $15 million. The annual earnings from the fund, expected to be about $800,000 per year, will assist with the operating budget for the camp. Using additional income from special events, camperships and annual gifts, the board feels certain the Double H Ranch will continue to be able to provide the camp experience.
The two-year, $15 million campaign is being called `The Campaign for the Health and Happiness of Special Children.` Price Chopper’s President and Chief Operating Officer Neil Golub and Dr. Walter Robb are serving as campaign chairs for the campaign. Both serve on the Double H Ranch’s board of directors.
Newman serves as the honorary chairman of the board of directors for the camp. The Double H Ranch is the second of nine camps that fall underneath the umbrella of The Hole in the Wall camps.
`When we started these camps we had no idea the profound impact it would have,` said Newman. `I had no idea it would start sprouting like mushrooms.`
The original camp is located in Connecticut. There are three other camps in the United States, as well as camps in Ireland, the United Kingdom, France and Israel. Newman visits each camp at least once a year.
`Parents come up and say that’s what their child lives for and stays alive for, to come back to these camps,` said Newman.
McCarthy summed it up.
`I’m just really glad that Paul Newman had the inspiration to make the camp for kids . . . to know that someone actually cares whether they have a disability or not,` she said.“