June 26, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Camp for children with health problems coming to southeast Michigan

Pinckney— Seriously ill children and their families will be able to attend a recreational camp in Livingston County starting next fall.

SeriousFun Children’s Network, founded by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, plans to break ground for its newest camp July 30. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015.

Newman’s daughter, Clea Newman, discussed the groundbreaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show Thursday.

The facility will be the network’s first camp in Michigan. Other camps in the network are elsewhere in the U.S. and in Israel, Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The 105-acre site used to be the Fresh Air Camp, owned by the University of Michigan.

“They have leased us the property for 50 years at $1 a year,” said Marji Wisniewski, director of North Star Reach, a Pinckney-based nonprofit and provisional member of SeriousFun Children’s Network.

Doug Armstrong, founder and CEO of North Star Reach, said the camp will serve 1,500 campers and their families each year.

“There will be no financial barriers for the children, as they attend for free, no medical barriers because their health care needs will be met on site, and the social barriers will be removed as they are surrounded by their peers,” said Armstrong.

North Star Reach will be the 9th SeriousFun Camp in the U.S.

Its mission is to “create opportunities for children with serious illnesses and their families to reach beyond illness and discover joy, confidence and a new world of possibilities, always free of charge.”

Paul Newman founded the first camp, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, in Ashford, Connecticut, in 1988. The premise was that every child should have the chance to experience the adventures and friendships that go hand-in-hand with summer camp.

“These children, for whom there is no space in the Great Lakes region, or who have conditions that cannot be served at other camps, will benefit from North Star Reach,” said Armstrong.

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