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COVER STORY

The Hole in the Wall Gang's New Member

A former Lake Hughes trailer park will be the sixth camp for sick kids in Newman's chain.

August 20, 2000|PAUL LIEBERMAN

If Lou Adler had any doubts about the impact Paul Newman's camp can have on people, they vanished when his son shaved his head. When the 13-year-old returned that way from a visit to the Connecticut camp in the early '90s, his friend "thought it was because of Michael Jordan," Adler recalls. "But it was because of the kids he met," the ones whose hair had fallen out on its own, because of chemotherapy.

It's because of such visits--and the Adler family--that Southern California is getting its own version of Newman's camp.

The Painted Turtle Camp, being built on 183 acres in the town of Lake Hughes, will be the sixth camp affiliated with Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp Assn., joining ones serving sick children north of Orlando, Fla., upstate New York, Ireland and Paris.

Page Hannah-Adler, Lou's wife, was a volunteer at Newman's camp in Ashford, Conn., the second and third years it was open. Like others who work with the children, she was moved by the chance to give them a "week of normalcy," and went on to get a master's degree in child development. But it became impossible for her to go east like that when she began having her own children.

"I wondered, 'Should I go back to [work in] a hospital or what?' Then I thought, 'Why don't I start one of these camps.' "

*

The Adlers are, as they say, connected. He was one of the most successful music producers around; she's the sister of actress Daryl Hannah.

First, she discovered the site of an abandoned "run-down trailer park" 20 minutes north of Valencia, and asked Newman to come look at it. They went fishing in the 23-acre lake. She caught a four-pound bass. Sold.

Lou Adler then called his friends in the music business, including Herb Alpert, and got seven to match his own pledge--$1 million each.

That covers more than half the $15 million budget to get the camp built and opened by 2002. It is expected to serve 1,000 children each summer and families on weekends the rest of the year.

A member of Richard Meier's architectural firm, Michael Palladino, is designing the 34-building complex for free. It will have an organic theme, with apple orchards and strawberry fields and a Pizza Patch--a garden where campers can pick the ingredients, then make their own dinner.

Hannah-Adler, who will supervise the operation, found a medical director from her old days at Newman's original camp--a former counselor, Wendy Whitehill, who went on to medical school inspired in part by her experience at the camp.

"It changed all the adults," Hannah-Adler says, "living with those children."

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