AngelRiders Bicycle Across Connecticut to Help Children with Life Threatening Diseases

AngelRiders will pedal from the northwest hills of Connecticut down to the Mystic shoreline — totaling 135 miles over a two day stretch. It is a charity bike ride like no other, according to organizers, with the goal to raise money to support children who are battling life threatening diseases. More than 300 riders from across Connecticut are expected to participate in the 12th Annual AngelRide (#AngelRide #NeverStopClimbing), which will be held over Memorial Day weekend. Adult riders have the option to participate in a one or two day trek, May 23 and 24. There are also shorter rides for teens and children on Sunday.logo-tag

The charity ride — named for Angela "Angel" Uihlein of Westbrook — began in 2004 with 32 riders raising $67,000. Angela was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 12 and attends the ride each year with her family. She has been in remission since the ride started and is now a registered nurse.

Growing steadily year after year, AngelRide has raised $4.6 million to benefit the Hospital Outreach Program (HOP) run by the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford. HOP brings the hopeful, playful spirit of camp to children and families in a hospital setting. In 2014, HOP covered 39 hospital sites in Connecticut Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, where 28 specialists made nearly 32,000 hospital visits to sick children in need of joy and laughter.

“There is no other bike challenge like this one,” said Lynn McCarthy, AngelRide co-founder of Lyme. “We have been able to grow primarily by word of mouth because of the amazing experience it offers. We pay attention to the details, serve great food along the way and provide an overnight adventure at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.” AngelRide is the only organization that has been granted the privilege to stay overnight at the camp.

angel photoConnecticut riders return year after year to the AngelRide — some to ride and some to volunteer for the statewide event.  Westbrook resident Dan Shapiro was the first rider to register in 2004, and he has been participating in the AngelRide every year since. “I couldn’t imagine Memorial Day weekend without AngelRide,” said Shapiro. “The spirit of this ride is off the charts. We are all trying to do something bigger for the kids.”

West Hartford resident Keith Knowles has been involved with AngelRide for the last 10 years, either as a rider, volunteer or web site developer. This year, his 8-year-old daughter Emily will become an AngelRider. “I am going to ride six miles because I had a sister who passed away from cancer when she was only 5 years old. She is my motivation and inspiration for doing this,” said Emily.

Knowles sees the ride as a metaphor for the journey of sick children. “The hills we face are nothing compared to the hills the kids face. I'm not a cyclist. I don't train too much. Pedaling through the climbs one slow churn at a time and reaching the finish line is humbling experience. I know it's not nearly as difficult as battling cancer or some other life threatening disease,” he said.

There are many options for AngelRiders:

  • Two-Day Ride: Ride 135.4 miles across Connecticut over the course of two days. The two-day ride begins in Norfolk, and extends 85 miles to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford. angelDay two begins at camp and ends 50 miles away in Mystic.
  • One-Day Ride: Sunday only, ride 50 miles from the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to Mystic.
  • Young Adult AngelRide: For ages 11-14, this 22-mile ride begins in Hopeville State Park on day two and ends in Mystic.
  • Young AngelRide: For ages 7 to 11, this is a 6.5 mile ride in Mystic.

Southington resident Tom Wood looks forward to ride each year and continues to recruit new people to either ride or volunteer. This year will be his eighth year as an AngelRider, which he does in honor of his brother who died of leukemia. “This is a great way to recharge your batteries. We have such an amazing and beautiful state. And it is not flat, so this is really a great challenge to undertake.”

“The renewal of body and spirit is exactly what the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and HOP brings to a child with a life threatening condition,” said Dr. Brad Jubelirer, Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, UCONN School of Medicine in Farmington.

To find out more or to register for AngelRide, visit . Registration remains open and encouraged; volunteers and donations are also welcome.

Hospital Outreach Program, New Website and Video Advance Mission of The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut began in 1988 as a way for seriously ill children, including those with cancer, to “raise a little hell,” as founder Paul Newman described it – a time and place when kids could simply be kids, without being self-conscious about their ongoing medical needs.  Twenty-seven years later, it is much more than a summer camp, offering a robust range of programs year round, in Connecticut and beyond. To tell that story, and increase public awareness of the array of programs available to children with acute medical needs, the Camp has launched a newly redesigned website ( that eases navigation through the various program offerings, and produced a new video that highlights the range of activities and impact.hole web

Among the programs highlighted is the less widely known Hospital Outreach Program (HOP), one of a number of programs that have blossomed in recent years to extend the mission and impact of The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp into communities to reach more children.

Through one-on-one interactions and group activities, HOP “brings Camp’s unique summer programming and spirit to hospitals and clinics. Whether working bedside, in playrooms or outpatient clinic settings, our interactions and activities with children and families include arts & crafts projects, and interactive games specifically adapted for use in the medical setting, as well as other Camp-inspired programming and events. Just like at Camp, all interactions are guided by the child’s choice and are child-driven,” the website explains.

Responding to the fact that children in the hospital often feel isolated, fearful, stressed, and uncertain because of their illnesses, the Hospital Outreach Program “brings the hopeful, playful spirit of The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to children, families, and their caregivers in the hospital setting, at no cost, year-round on a weekly basis.”

The HOP program has expanded to 35 medical facilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  The Connecticut programs are offered at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, Yale-New Haven Hospital, Yale Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic in Trumbull, and the Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Bridgeport Campus.281_2014CampWeekatCHOP-4576

The HOP Specialists that provide one-on-one sessions visits “have a bachelor’s degree, excellent kid skills, experience developing fun and exciting programming and knowledge of hospitals systems. They attend both a HOP and Hospital Orientation and receive regular opportunities for professional development,” the website points out.

At Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) last fall, the facility was “transformed into Downtown Camp” for a week, as nearly 30 Camp staff and volunteers and more than 60 CHOP volunteers provided five full days of Camp programming. In alogo-hop@2xll, there were “approximately 800 healing experiences with children and families throughout the week, bringing the safety, respect and love of Camp to many families” in Philadelphia.

Building on the success of the week, the Hospital Outreach teach is looking ahead to similar events across the network of partner hospitals.

Among the other programs offered during the year, in addition to the centerpiece Camp experience, are CampOut, which brings the Camp experience to campers in their own hometowns, weekend programs in Ashford in fall and spring, and Hero’s Journey for campers who have aged out of the summer program.  In addition, programs are offered for parents, caregivers and siblings of children participating in The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Angel Ride Launch Anniversary Years

Registration has opened for this year’s Angel Ride, an all-volunteer effort that organizes annual athletic endurance events  as fundraising initiatives with 100 percent of the money raised going directly to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp's Hospital Outreach Program.  This year’s events - marking the 10th anniversary of Angel Ride, amidst the 25th anniversary year of the remarkable Camp - will be held May 25-26. Angel Charitable Trust, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization,  has supported The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp's Hospital Outreach Program since 2007.  Hospital Outreach® brings the hopeful, playful spirit of The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp – founded in 1988 by the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman - to children and families in the hospital setting.  By offering unique, creative and developmentally appropriate activities and interactions, the program helps to restore joy and laughter in a time ofteangel riden laden with fear, stress and uncertainty. The Hospital Outreach Program brings the joy and fun of Camp’s summer programming to seriously ill children year-round.

This past year, 18,000 hospitalized children received a visit from "Camp". Consistent with other Camp programs, it is available to hospitals and families at no cost.  They work collaboratively with hospital staff to enhance, augment or support existing programs focused on improving the quality of life during treatment. Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center are among the hospitals in the Northeast that are participating in the program.

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp recently released an inspiring song and music video to kick off its 25th anniversary as a hideout where seriously ill kids can simply be kids.  Natalie Merchant, one of America's most respected recording artists, created a new sholeinwall logoing-a-long version of her iconic song "Wonder" and recorded it at the Camp in Ashford, Conn. this past summer with the campers. In the music video, Merchant leads the kids in song interspersed with clips of the late Paul Newman and the campers sharing what the Camp means to them.

Another newly released video highlights the connection between campers Hannah and Janis, who have formed a special bond during the past two years at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.  That bond has allowed them to face the challenges of mitochondrial disease together and experience “a different kind of healing.” The unforgettable story of their friendship brings the unique spirit of The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to life in the first online “Healing Feeling” profile, which is part of a series being released during the Camp’s 25th anniversary.

"Wonder" was written by Natalie Merchant for her first solo album "Tigerlily."  The song, released as a single in 1996, reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Its lyrics contain the refrain, "They say I must be one of the wonders" and were inspired by Merchant’s own experience meeting twin sisters coping with a congenital disease. Merchant was struck by how positive the girls were as they faced significant challenges, thanks to an inner strength that she attributed to the love and support of their family and friends.

"For years, I've been told by parents of kids with special needs and medical staff and children themselves that 'Wonder' has become an anthem for sick kids. So I know the healing power of the song. I am delighted to add my voice to all the love, camaraderie and sharing that goes on at Camp.  Paul really did it so well. The Camp is a magical place."

The Camp was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning.