Tag Archives: Hole in the Wall Gang Camp

Roundup: Drive-In Movies; Food Scraps; Train Station Shuttle; Hole In The Wall Gang Camp; More


This morning, the Board of Selectmen approved the Remarkable Theater’s request to continue showing drive-in movies this summer, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. So far, all 4 shows have been sold out

The very cool addition to Westport’s entertainment scene continues tomorrow (Thursday, July 9) with “Mamma Mia!” and Saturday (July 11), with “The Graduate.” The Dustin Hoffman classic is sponsored by Manna Toast. They offer a $20 movie box meal, which can be picked up at their kitchen behind Cycle Dynamics (near Carvel) that day before the film.

Three more films are set: “Life, Animated” (July 15), “Do the Right Thing” (July 16, in conjunction with TEAM Westport), and “Dazed and Confused” (July 18).

Tickets are now on sale for the 5 movies; click here (and do it quickly!). The parking lot opens at 8 p.m.; showtime is around 9.


Stay tuned for more drive-in movie news. The Remarkable Theater rocks Westport!

A food scraps recycling drop-off area is now open at the transfer station. Residents can bring all scraps, including meat products and bones.

All you need is a lidded container to collect and transport food scraps. Starter kits are also available at Earthplace for $25. They include a 2-gallon lidded countertop pail, 6-gallon transportation bin with lockable lid, and a roll of compostable bags.

It’s all part of Westport’s Zero Food Waste Challenge. For more information, including upcoming events, click here or email ZeroWaste@SustainableWestport.org.


Speaking of food: If you thought about planting an edible garden, but never quite started — it’s not too late!

On Monday (July 13, 7 to 8 p.m., Zoom), Wakeman Town Farm explores 8 veggies and herbs to plant now, to harvest and enjoy from late summer into fall.

The speaker is Kathy Oberman Tracy: WTF board member; Westport Garden Club member and plant sale chair; member of the Herb Society of America, and chef for Martha Stewart, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Click here to register. Suggested donation: $10.


On July 21 (7 to 9 p.m.), Westport Transit will hear public comment on the replacement of its 7 commuter shuttle routes with an on-demand group door-to-service to the Saugatuck and Greens Farms stations.

Passengers would use Norwalk Transit’s app, between 5:45 and 9:45 a.m., and 4 and 8 p.m.

This is different from the on-demand service that replaced the shuttle routes, due to COVID-19.

The hearing will be held remotely. To join, call 646-876-9923, then enter Meeting ID 883 3169 9715. To submit written testimony click here, email info@norwalktransit.com, or write Westport Transit commuter shuttle changes, 275 Wilson Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854

For a map of the service area and additional information, click here or call 203-299-5164.


The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp has a strong connection to Westport. Our neighbor Paul Newman founded the summer program for seriously ill children in 1988. Plenty of Westporters volunteer at the Ashford, Connecticut facility. For many, it’s the highlight of their year.

This year, due to COVID-19, youngsters won’t enjoy that amazing experience. But organizers have created innovative ways to the camp’s magic to campers. Facebook Live interactive events like sing-alongs and story times, care packages (with games, arts and crafts projects, and more), and Zoom home and hospital bedside visits are a few of the ways to help kids battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

One of the camp’s staunchest friends is Westporter Adam Vengrow. He’s organized a push-up fundraiser. For just $25, anyone can join his team. You can donate too without doing any push-ups.

Click here for details. For more information, email a.vengrow@ven2port.com.


And finally … Beck turns 50 years old today. He is anything but a loser.

Remembering A.E. Hotchner

A. E. Hotchner — a writer who parlayed his friendship with fellow Westporter Paul Newman into a second career in philanthropy — died today at home. He was 102 years old, and lived more than half his life — 67 years — here.

The New York Times obituary described the longtime Hillandale Road resident as a “novelist, playwright, biographer, literary bon vivant and philanthropist whose life was shaped and colored by close friendships with two extraordinarily gifted and well-known men, Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman.”

A.E. Hotchner and Ernest Hemingway.

Hotchner “was not to the manner born, nor was he a celebrity. But he was nonetheless at home among the glitterati, one of those not-so-famous people whom famous people, for whatever reason, take to,” the Times said. At Washington University, he was a classmate of Tennessee Williams.

He wrote books about his friends, including Clark Gable, Barbara Hutton, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Doris Day and Sophia Loren.

But he included honest details about Hemingway’s suicide in “Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir,” whose publication the author’s widow tried to halt.

Hotchner wrote 2 other books about Hemingway, and one about the Rolling Stones, among others.

Yet it was his friendship with Newman that most distinguished the latter part of Hotchner’s life. According to the Times:

“We owned a series of dilapidated boats we’d take out on the water to go fishing and drink beer and have all sorts of adventures,” Mr. Hotchner told the London newspaper The Daily Mirror after Newman’s death in September 2008. “We drank a lot of beer and so never actually caught many fish.”

Mr. Newman had made it a holiday ritual to make batches of homemade salad dressing in his barn, pour it into wine bottles and drive around his neighborhood giving them away as Christmas gifts. Just before Christmas 1980, Mr. Newman was stirring up an enormous batch, with a canoe paddle, when he invited Mr. Hotchner to join him. Out of their small adventure came the idea for Newman’s Own.

Founded in 1982, the company has given away hundreds of millions of dollars through its charitable arms….

In 1988, Mr. Hotchner and Mr. Newman furthered their charitable work by founding the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with life-threatening diseases.

(Click here for the full New York Times obituary.)

Town Invited To Big Block Party

The 3 restaurants — one Japanese-inspired, another featuring tacos, the third specializing in meatballs — could not be more different.

But OKO, Bartaco and The Meatball Shop have already joined forces with valet parking. This Sunday (October 6), they’re collaborating on a family afternoon — for a great cause.

National Hall is the site of the 1st-ever Push Against Cancer Block Party. From 2 to 5 p.m. there’ s appetizers from all 3 spots, drinks courtesy of TUCK Gin, and fun activities like Cornhole and an obstacle course for kids and adults, thanks to Upper Deck Fitness.

National Hall and Upper Deck Fitness: the site of Sunday’s block party.

It all benefits the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps — the wonderful site in Ashford, Connecticut for children with life-threatening illnesses founded by Westport’s own Paul Newman.

OKO chef/owner Brian Lewis participated in this spring’s Push Against Cancer push-up contest at Staples High School — also a Hole in the Wall Gang fundraiser. He was so moved by what he learned that he offered OKO — or his other restaurant, The Cottage — for a future event.

PAC organizers Andy Berman and Sherry Jonas were happy to oblige.

Bartaco, The Meatball Shop, Upper Deck Fitness and National Hall’s landlord were equally eager to join in.

There’s a lot going on in Westport this weekend. But if you can, block out time for this great block party.

And yes, there’s plenty of parking.

(Tickets will he sold at the “door.” The cost is $40 per adult, $10 per child under age 12.)

Push (Up) Against Cancer — And For Kids

In 2010, Andy Berman was opening a new gym in Westport. He wanted to give back to the community.

When he heard about the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — the amazing experience for youngsters with serious illnesses — and then learned it was founded by Westport’s own Paul Newman, he knew he’d found his cause.

Berman’s first fundraising effort was a Push Against Cancer. Twenty participants did push-ups in his Fitness Factory gym. They raised $9,900.

Each year, the event grew. Last year, 334 men, women and children collected over $150,000. That brought Berman’s 9-year total to nearly $500,000.

Hundreds of participants had a great time last year, at Levitt Pavilion.

This year’s Push Against Cancer is bigger than ever. He and his team expect over 400 participants. The goal is $200,000.

That would send 80 boys and girls to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — at no cost to them or their families.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (right) joins Andy Berman in promoting the June 9 Push Against Cancer.

The event is set for Sunday, June 9, at Staples High School’s Jinny Parker Field. The venue should draw plenty of students (and their teams).

Many Stapleites are getting into the act. The Orphenians will sing the national anthem.

Of course, anyone — of any age, or athletic ability — can sign up for push-ups.

Do them for Andy Berman. Do them for Paul Newman. Most of all, do them for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp kids.

(To register as an individual or a team on Sunday, June 9 at Staples High School’s field hockey field — or to donate — click here. To become a corporate sponsor or for more information, email PushAgainstCancer@gmail.com.) 

The Westport Fire Department will be out in force June 9, for the Push Against Cancer.

Westporters Push Against Cancer

The Levitt Pavilion was packed yesterday — with push-up people.

The view from the Levitt Pavilion stage.

Hundreds of men, women and kids — from super-jacked to usually sedentary — did as many push-ups as they could in an hour.

First Selectman Jim Marpe banged out his. So did Chief of Police Foti Koskinas. And Paul Newman’s grandson.

Chief of Police Foti Koskinas and Push Against Cancer founder Andy Berman.

Which was fitting, because all the money raised goes to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the fantastic getaway for boys and girls with cancer and other serious diseases. It was founded, of course, by Westport’s own Paul Newman.

The 9th annual Push Against Cancer raised well over $120,000 — a record. That makes nearly $500,000 since the event began.

Congrats to founder and mastermind Andy Berman. To the many police and firefighters who helped make it happen.

And, of course, to everyone who participated — and feels very, very sore today.

(Hat tip: photographers Sabine Foreman, Andrew Kindt, Adam Vengrow)

Yes, There’s A Marathon In Antarctica. No, Richard Garland Is Not Crazy For Running It.

We’ve all got travel goals.

I’d like to see all 50 states (I’m at 48). You might want to go on a safari, or walk along the Great Wall of China.

Richard Garland plans to hit all 7 continents. But that’s just the means to an end.

His goal is to run a marathon on all 7 continents.

I got tired just typing that sentence.

Until I talked to Richard, I didn’t even know there were marathons on all 7 continents. Antarctica, after all, is a continent.

Turns out, there is a marathon there.

Not only that, it’s happening right now.

And Richard Garland is there to run it.

But he’s not just running 26.2 miles, on ice and snow in sub-zero temperatures while dodging penguins and, I’m sure, man-swallowing crevasses.

He’s doing it to raise money for the Adam J. Lewis Preschool.

Some very happy Adam J. Lewis preschoolers.

And not just a few bucks. Richard’s goal is $100,000, for the fantastic Bridgeport institution that — with strong Westport support — honors the memory of a special 9/11 victim.

Richard has a special bond with the school that’s changing the lives of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds in the West End. He knew Adam Lewis. Patty Lewis — Adam’s widow, and a driving force behind the school — is Richard’s wife’s best friend.

Travel — and giving back — are in Richard’s blood. A London native, he came to Westport to work. He thought he’d stay 2 years. Twenty-three years later, he’s still here.

Though he grew up playing sports, Richard hated running. “I thought it was for people with no lives,” he says.

But when he turned 50, he challenged himself to run the New York Marathon. He raised funds for the Westport-based Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — and got hooked.

Richard Garland, completing the New York Marathon.

Richard travels the world for work. He timed one trip to run a marathons in London. Others followed, in Kenya and Tokyo.

He ran the Boston Marathon too — in 2013. “I was slow enough not to be at the finish when the bombs went off,” he says.

Antarctica marks the 5th continent Richard will race on. On Sunday he flew to Punta Arenas, Chile. He boarded a Russian cargo plane, and arrives in Antarctica today.

The marathon is Friday. Unlike New York, Boston, London, Kenya, Tokyo — or anywhere else on earth — runners face an average windchill of -20 degrees Celsius, and strong winds. (And this is summer down there!)

It’s tough impossible to train for something like this. The best he could do, experts told Richard, was run on a treadmill in a walk-in freezer.

He did not. But he took the next-best advice, which is train on sand.

The Greens Farms resident ran at Burying Hill, Southport and Fairfield beaches. “It’s not very easy,” he reports. “I think I’ll run this marathon very slowly.”

You and I would relax after such an exhausting event. We’d check out the scientific stations and penguins, maybe see what Punta Arenas offers on the way home.

But you and I are not Richard Garland. He has a business meeting right after the marathon.

In London.

“I’ll pack my business suit, along with my Antarctic running clothes,” he says cheerfully.

The coldest continent marks Richard’s 5th for a marathon. He plans to run Easter Island — off the Chilean coast — next year. The last will be Sydney, in 2019.

Richard Garland in 5 marathons. Clockwise from upper left: New York, Tokyo, Kenya, London and Boston.

But 7 marathons on 7 continents is not Richard’s final goal. In fact, it’s just a warm-up.

In 2020, he’d like to run 7 marathons on 7 continents — in 7 days.

“Impossible!” you and I say. In addition to sheer exhaustion, just getting from one 26.2-mile race to the next is incomprehensible.

“No, it’s a thing,” Richard says, as if this is like walking down your driveway to pick up the mail. “There’s a private plane, with business class seats.”

But if he does that, he warns, there’s a price.

“It’s a million-dollar fundraiser for the Adam J. Lewis preschool.”

(Click here to contribute to Richard Garland’s current Adam J. Lewis marathon fundraiser.)

Pic Of The Day #49

Hundreds gathered — and hundreds more participated — in today’s 8th annual Push Against Cancer for Kids at the Levitt Pavilion. The event was a fundraiser for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps. (Photo/Joey Bairaktaris)

Raise Funds — And Upper-Body Strength — For Kids

Westporters know that every day is different at the Levitt Pavilion.

One night there’s a rock group. The next night, a military band. Then comes a comedian, followed by Klezmer musicians. It’s Ed Sullivan on steroids.

But on Sunday morning, June 4 (10:30 to 11:30), the Levitt stage will be taken over by regular people of all ages.

Doing push-ups.

It’s the 8th annual Push Against Cancer for Kids. Individually and in teams, everyone is invited to bang out as many push-ups as possible.

Last year’s Push Against Cancer drew a wide variety of ages and sizes …

The only catch: You have to be sponsored. Friends, family members, colleagues — all pledge money, based on how many push-ups you can do.

All proceeds go to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the program for children facing severe medical challenges.

An anonymous donor will match all funds raised by everyone under 23 years old (up to $25,000).

… and both genders.

Paul Newman founded the Hole in the Wall Gang camp nearly 30 years ago. This year, Westport-based Newman’s Own Foundation is helping out.

The Westport and Danbury Police Departments are all in too.

Opening ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. A Hole in the Wall Gang camper, now in remission from cancer, will deliver an inspiring speech.

DJ Sean McKee — aka Big Daddy — will motivate the push-up participants. He has a great reason to help: He’s a 2-time cancer survivor.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (5th from left) and his entire force are strong supporters of the Push Against Cancer.

Last year’s event drew over 400 people. They raised $79,000 for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Organizer Andy Berman’s goal this year is $100,000. The cost of a week at the camp is $2,500 — though all services are free to campers and their families. So Berman hopes to raise enough money for 40 kids.

How many push-ups will you contribute to the cause?

To register, or for more information, click here. Questions? Email andy@mentalgritfitness.com 

Boxers, Bowties And Millennial Philanthropy

With many of his classmates and friends, 2003 Weston High School graduate Andy Porter spent the last few years flying all over the country for bachelor parties and weddings.

He and his buddies had a great time. But they also realized it would end. Soon, they’d focus full-time on families and careers.

How, they wondered, could they stay close over the next 20 to 40 years?

Porter and his pals know full well how lucky they were to have grown up in Fairfield County. (His roots here are deep: His grandmother — an architect — designed all the houses on Porters Lane, off Bayberry; his father was a 1967 Staples High School grad.)

Two years ago, they made a decision: They’d get together every year, to volunteer and raise money for a good cause.

The group of 9 put their professional talents to work. The accountant and finance men handled the money. The lawyer got 501(c)(3) status.

The marketers came up with the name — Boxer Bowtie Club — and the catchphrase: “Gather. Give. Grow.”

Then they went to work.

They chose the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp as their first beneficiary. Growing up near its Westport headquarters, the Boxer Bowtie members knew the amazing work it does, providing fun and friendship for seriously ill kids (and their families).

Their initial event was a black-tie cruise around Manhattan. 250 people showed up — and raised $75,000.

The Boxer Bowtie Club was not messing around.

Last year, they repeated the cruise. This time a crowd of 450 contributed $100,000.

The Boxer Bowtie Club on a Manhattan fundraising crew. Lady Liberty is in the background; a boxer is in front.

But the guys — who by now number 20 — are not satisfied with one activity a year. Each member is asked to volunteer at least 5 times a year.

Not all of those efforts are connected to the club. But some are — and they’ve spread beyond the tri-state area.

On May 6, Boxer Bowtie guys will travel from all over the country to Dallas. They’ll raise funds for Education Opens Doors, helping at-risk students navigate the college process.

Their 3rd annual New York gala is set for the fall. The original 10-year goal — to send 40 kids to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — was accomplished in just 2. Members will decide soon which camp project or need to tackle next.

The Boxer Bowtie Club, after helping out at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Andy Porter is at far right. Others (from left): Brooks Foley, Matt Silver, Brett Reis, Kale Butcher, Luke Dudley, Adam Luchansky.

“All of our roots are in Fairfield County,” Porter notes. “We were so fortunate to have had parents, teachers, coaches and resources to help us. So we’ll always have some projects with ties to the area.”

As you read this story, you may be thinking of Go50. That’s the Westport group — profiled recently on “06880” — of local men, ages 50 and up, who dedicate time, energy and money to great causes. They’ve done quite a bit, by coincidence, for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Porter saw that story, and realized that despite the age differences, there were lots of similarities between the 2 groups. He hopes the millennial Boxer Bowtie Club and baby boomer Go50s can at some point partner — and have fun — together.

The Boxer Bowtie Club (above, at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp) hopes to work with another group that helps that Westport-based organization: Go50.

Of course, the Go50 men have already sent their children off to college. Many of the Boxer Bowtie guys don’t even have kids yet. But — after all those bachelor parties and weddings — they’re on the way.

Porter says that’s one more reason the Boxer Bowtie Club is important. “We hope we’re developing a new generation of philanthropists. We want to do that now, not later. And it’s something we can model, to pass on to our kids.”

So what about that “Boxer Bowtie” name?

“We’re all very loyal — to each other, our communities, and people in need,” Porter explains.

“Dogs are loyal too. We all had dogs growing up. And boxers are some of the most loyal dogs of all.”

As for bowties: At every annual fundraiser, one of their sponsors — David Fin neckwear — hands out bowties, with boxers on them.

It’s fun. It’s informal. It’s a way of bonding.

And it’s definitely not something you’d get at a bachelor party.

(For more information on the Boxer Bowtie Club, click here. Founding members are Kale Butcher, Emil Defrancesco, Luke Dudley, Glen Kendall, Adam Luchansky, Andy Porter, Brett Reis, Matt Silver and Ryan Squillante. Sponsors include the Trunk Club, David Fin and Stella Artois.)

Steve Ruchefsky’s Gang Of 50

For his 50th birthday, Steve Ruchefsky figured he’d whip up a nice feast for a few friends.

That quickly evolved into an invitation to Bill Taibe. He’s an even better cook than Steve — who is, after all, a lawyer who now manages private investments, while Bill at the time owned Le Farm and was about to open The Whelk. So 5 years ago the backyard of Steve and his wife Rondi Charleston’s handsome Evergreen Avenue home was transformed into the setting for a killer 5-course meal.

Steve — who considers himself lucky, with a “wonderful wife, great daughter and amazing friends” — capped the occasion by announcing a $1 million gift to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

He knew Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward through serving on the Westport Country Playhouse board. Steve’s donation allowed the camp in upstate Connecticut — which “creates fun and friendship for seriously ill children and their families” — to build a residence for doctors and their own families. “Steve’s Station” made it easier for them to stay longer — and their kids to enjoy the facility too.

It was a wonderful gesture. But that was only the start of Steve’s post-50 life.

“I had 2 ephipanies,” he says, 5 years later. “I grew up in Rockaway Beach. I didn’t have a lot. So I knew I wanted to help people.”

Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston in their wine cellar.

At the same time, he adds, “I wanted to do more than writing a check. I wanted to have fun with my guy friends.”

He rounded up 6 of them. All felt blessed to live here. All had spent the first part of their lives building careers and families, then seeing their children off to college. All had plenty of energy, and the desire to make time in their busy lives for others.

The result: “Go50.” (It stands for “Guys Over 50.”)

Those men — now 13 — are all at least 50 years old, and eager to “get out of our bubble, get dirty, and get going to do good.”

Many names are familiar: Tom Cope, John Engelhart, Jim Hardy, Barry Leskin, Matthew Maddox, Vinny Mullineaux, Jim Naughton, John Porio, John Seigenthaler, David Tetenbaum, Doug Weber and Steven Wolff.

Their first project was at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. The boathouse was crammed with boats, canoes, fishing rods. Nothing was organized.

Nine “Go50” guys headed north in a van. They emptied, cleaned, sorted and painted. They got rid of old equipment. Campers, counselors and administrators loved what they’d done.

Go50 guys, after cleaning the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp boathouse.

Energized, the “Go50” gang tackled the Burroughs Community Center in Bridgeport. They painted and renovated a conference room, bringing new life to the building.

Then they wondered how they could do more than some one-off projects.

“None of us served in the military,” Steve says. “We were spared from the draft, and could start our careers when we were young. We decided we wanted to give back to people who did serve in the armed forces.”

Just off I-95 in Bridgeport is Homes for the Brave. The non-profit provides housing, vocational training, job placement, mental health and addiction services, and life skills coaching to help individuals — especially veterans, many of whom have been in prison or have addiction issues — leave homelessness behind.

Steve committed “Go50” to an ongoing relationship. They’ll prepare meals, clean the grounds, and help where and however they can.

Homes for the Brave helps veterans in many ways.

That’s one story. It’s a great one.

Then Steve heard about Homes for the Brave’s newest project.

Created by Peter Van Heerden — former executive director of the Westport Arts Center, now head of Fairfield University’s Quick Center — along with Westport artist Nina Bentley, it’s a show in which people living at the Homes tell their stories.

The performance is called “War Stories.” But they’re really “life stories.”

Notes posted at a recent “War Stories” rehearsal.

Steve has seen rehearsals. “These are not actors or writers. They’re men and women who have served our country. Life has been hard for them.

“They’re not Gold Star veterans who came home to parades. They’re vets who for the most part joined up to get away from trouble. But they came back and found themselves in trouble again.”

A recent preview in Hartford earned a standing ovation.

Steve wants to get the word out about upcoming performances at the Quick Center (Friday and Saturday, March 31 and April 1 — click here for more details; click here for tickets).

Steve Ruchefsky (center) at a “War Stories” rehearsal.

Learning about “War Stories” has inspired Steve to do even more with “Go50.”

“We have a great time together. We get a lot done, and we laugh a lot,” he says.

One thing they laugh about is that they’re all over 50, yet they’re “gang members.”

But what a gang!