ASHFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — In eastern Connecticut at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp staff are vowing to rebuild after a devastating fire.
Jimmy Canton, the Chief Executive Officer of the Hole in The Wall Gang Camp, says this outdoor oasis for very sick children was founded by famed actor Paul Newman 34 years ago.
“This place songs with joy!” exclaimed Canton.
The wood chips under the picnic tables blanket what used to be the heart of the camp. A colorful old Western Village which included a camp store, art studio, pottery cabin, and music area. It burned to the ground this past February.
Canton said, “It was a miracle that that intense fire destroyed that entire complex and these buildings were spared.”
Governor Ned Lamont toured the grounds Thursday and recalled the heroic efforts of fire fighters and volunteers.
Lamont pointed to the area, “That’s where the volunteers going to put out the fire and saving the OK Corral – which is right down there that’s the hospital.”
The camp has received $3-million in donations to rebuild. Newman’s Own Foundation, Travelers Insurance, and more than 3,000 donors pitched in.
The fire department says the source of the fire is undetermined. While insurance companies work out the rest, the camp is pivoting to run a COVID-safe summer camp. Not only for sick children but their entire family.
“We have a lot of kids who need a lot of healing right now,” added Governor Lamont.
Construction will begin in the fall. In eight months a new building will be completed.
Canton says while it’s a blessing, families still deal with isolation and fear. “As we are looking for warmer and more hopeful days…our camper families don’t get that.”
Run solely on donations, families don’t pay a dime. This camp will now pivot and be open all year round. They are hoping to bring joy to 150 families. A slice of heaven, where there are no worries.
Lamont was focused on the summer goal. “Making sure that these kids can have fun, raise a little hell.”
Canton added, “There’s more to do and we are excited to do it.”
The first families are expected to arrive next week.