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Home > News > Hospital Patients Get the Summer Camp Spirit Year-Round with the Hole in the Wall Gang
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By staff
Friday, Jul 03, 2015

At the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, a very special visit is made twice a week by The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp as a part of their Hospital Outreach Program (HOP).  Through one-on-one interactions and group activities, HOP brings the Hole in the Wall Gang’s Camp summer programming and spirit to HackensackUMC’s pediatrics, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Reuten Clinic, and Hemotology/Oncology inpatient units. Whether working bedside, in playrooms or outpatient clinics, the interactions and activities with children and families include arts and crafts projects, and interactive games specifically adapted for use in the medical setting, as well as other camp-inspired programming and events.

“Our patients just beam when The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp visits.  They bring the camp enthusiasm, fun projects and games to our patients so they forget about treatment for a while.  We are so proud to have partnered with them throughout our pediatric departments,” said Ellen Goldring, section chief, Child Life/Creative Arts Therapy at HackensackUMC. 

 “I’m so lucky that they [Hole in the Wall] are here doing projects with us.  It makes it easier to fight this battle every day.  I really appreciate everything that they do.  It really makes me feel special,” said Mary Hannouch, patient, Saddle Brook, NJ. 

The Hospital Outreach Program director is a certified child life specialist with a specialty in hematology/oncology.  NJ HOP Regional Manager, Mike Dauphin, and other specially-trained Hospital Outreach specialists share in the commitment of delivering the camp magic and joy to the bedside.  The camp staff works within the hospital with the child life team to visit with pediatric patients and bring games, activities, arts and crafts, and their energetic spirit. 

“The child life team, and in fact everyone, at HackensackUMC have just been such great partners to us as we bring Camp fun, friendship and laughter to the children in their care,” said Mary Naumec, Director, Hospital Outreach, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. “We are grateful for their support and the opportunity to work so closely with the team here as we expanded our programming into New Jersey.”

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was founded in 1988 by famous actor, Paul Newman with one simple goal: that every child, no matter their illness, could experience the transformational spirit and friendships that go hand-in-hand with camp.  It was his dream that camp, with its expert medical care, would provide seriously ill children with a fun-filled experience defined by compassion, laughter and acceptance.

The camp has a kid-sized old west setting inspired by “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and is filled with traditional summer camp programs adapted so that children with physical and medical limitations could participate. The accessibility of the programs along with a significant, yet unobtrusive, medical presence allows campers to embrace possibilities and safely challenge perceived limitations. Among other children facing similar challenges, campers can find a community all their own.

In 2002, one counselor, armed with paints and craft projects, ventured into a Connecticut hospital and proved that the fun and friendship experienced at camp were portable. That is how the Hospital Outreach Program began and today more than 25 full-time specialists are serving more than 35 locations throughout the Northeast annually.  HackensackUMC was among the first New Jersey hospitals to benefit from the program and the New Jersey headquarters is located right in Hackensack, NJ. 

Photo:  Left: Michael Dauphin, Hospital Outreach Program regional manager, NJ, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, helps five-year-old, Matthew Saunders, Pompton Lakes, NJ create a fun T-shirt with a favorite saying. Right: Mary Hannouch, Saddle Brook, NJ, shows her courage through her T-shirt creation spelling the word “hope” with Hannah Campbell, Hospital Outreach specialist, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

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