Paul Newman played many serious roles, but in real life, he never quite grew up. “Dad was really a big kid,” his daughter, Clea Newman, reveals. “He liked to invent things, he told the worst jokes and he loved pranks.” This not only made him a playful parent, Clea, 53, adds, but a champion of fun for those who needed a laugh the most: terminally ill kids.
“It makes your heart sing,” Clea says of the legacy her father left behind through his SeriousFun Children’s Network for sick kids, which he launched in Connecticut in 1988 as the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.
Celebrating the network’s 30th anniversary at Flying Horse Farms in Ohio a few weeks ago was bittersweet for Clea. “There is not a day I go to any of our camps around the globe that I don’t feel his presence,” she says. “It really does make me feel closer to him. It’s almost hard for me because I miss him so much.”
Clea, the youngest of Paul’s three daughters with second wife Joanne Woodward, 88, serves as SeriousFun’s ambassador and the keeper of Paul’s dream, which started after he saw kids receiving cancer treatments alongside adults in a hospital in the ’80s.
“They had no chance just to be kids. He kept looking at them and saying they’re missing their childhood,” she shares. His goal? To provide a place for them to “kick back and raise a little hell,” as he put it, and proceeds from his popular Newman’s Own line of products keep the camps free for qualifying families to this day.
Late in his life, Paul grew weary of industry functions, “but he would always be at every event connected to his charity work,” Clea reports. “He told me, ‘If you want to make a difference, you do whatever it takes.'” And as he reflected upon his life before passing away at 83 in 2008, he realized his outreach filled him with a sense of pride he never got from his career. “I hope the camps last longer than the legacy of my films,” he insisted.
Clea is doing her best to make sure her dad gets his wish. “From a very young age, our parents taught us that being a good citizen in your community and giving back should be a priority if you were as lucky as we were,” she says. “I am very proud to be a part of his legacy. It is a special gift and an honor.”
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