Tuscany, The Soul of an Actor at Dynamo Camp

by Samuele Sodini

It was September 27, 2008, 1:44 pm. At the Dynamo Camp, the thatre was full up for the open-day party. Enzo Manes, Chairman of the Dynamo Foundation, was about to conclude his presentation to the attentive gathering when he said, ” I had prepared a different speech for this occasion. I wanted to thank the wonderful man who gave us the idea of setting up this camp but this morning at 7:30 I received a mail from the States saying that that man is no longer among us,” There was no need to spell out the name and surname of the person he was referring to – we all understood he was talking of Paul Newman.
The emotion stirred all the assembled guests who spontaneously stood and applauded.
Dynamo Camp is a totally free summer camp, located in the hilss of Pistoia, an hour’s drive grom Lucca and 25 min. from Florence. It is open to children aged between 7 and 16, who live in Italy and are affected by serious and chronic pathologies, currently undergoing treatment or in post-hospitalization convalescence. Here they spend 7-10 days, without their parents, lovingly looked after by specialized doctors, qualified health personnel and volunteers, whose main concern is to let the children experience a special holiday in the countryside, mixing with children with similar illnesses.
There are plans to open the camp to children coming from other European countries as well.
The idea of creating this sort of camp, called ” A Hole in the Wall “, came to Paul in 1998 and he started one just next to his house in Connecticut.
He eventually opened twenty of these camps around the world in which he invested all the million dollars gained from his food business. This one, located in the middle of Tuscany, inside a 20-hectare WWF oasis, is the only one in Italy.
When the children arrive at the camp, after long periods of boredom and surrering in hospital, they’ re quite indifferent to the beautiful place.
But within a day or two, they discard their hospital clothes in favour of Sioux costumes and get involved in the activities that have been carefully planned for them. The goal of the camp is to give them a week of fun and laughter, so once their morning treatments are over, they have a full day of games ahead. They recover energy and sef-confidence, they smile again and they want to try everything, from performing on stage, to climbing and playing Indians in a camp.
The friendly arms of the volunteers allow them to quit their wheelchairs and even ride on a horse.
Feeling safe in their protective embrace, they forget their hardships and squeals of excitement testify to their enjoyment, later reported in the daily diary they keep.
Money is the ” mother’s milk ” of any voluntary association. So we can be mothers to any of these camps but also contribute in many other different ways.
This year 230 children have been hosted in Dynamo Camp and 7 million euros were raised. The foundation’s goal for 2009 goal is to host 400 children.
Paul Newman visited the camp in May 2006 and said, ” It’s a magic place. ” He too was a magic person, not just for his aura of charm and seduction but also for the beauty of his soul. Thank you, Paul, for having started all this.

To find more about Dynamo Camp, www.dynamocamp.org. For horse riding and guided tour inside the WWF oasis, email oasi.ilcestodellupo@kme.com.

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