How Hollywood Helps Nonprofit Camps Provide a Classic Summer Experience

Katy Perry performs - benefit - The Painted Turtle Camp - Getty-H 2018
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Camp Bob Waldorf, The Painted Turtle and Camp Hollywood HEART are three nonprofit summer camps supported by the entertainment industry.

As August arrives, parents pick up their kids from summer sleepaway camp adventures. Others in Hollywood have been participating in the summer tradition another way: by supporting charitable camps for kids with medical conditions or from families with limited means.

Richard Feldstein, business manager for Madonna and Drake, says camps are “fantastic and dynamic” experiences. "My parents met at a sleepaway camp. My wife's parents met at a sleepaway camp. I met my wife at a sleepaway camp." So when it came time to choose favorite charitable causes, Feldstein wanted to provide the experience. Now he's been on the board of Camp Bob Waldorf for 15 years. Here's how Hollywood champions nonprofit camps. 

The Painted Turtle

Supported by the George Lopez Foundation, Annenberg Foundation and Sony Pictures, the nonprofit Painted Turtle hosts children with serious medical conditions — including limb loss and cerebral palsy — each year for sleepaway camp. As part of Paul Newman’s renowned SeriousFun Camps, The Painted Turtle has benefited from Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis and Tom Hanks, who attended Newman's concert series with performances by Katy Perry and John Legend.

The Painted Turtle is one of 16 beneficiaries of William Shatner’s annual Hollywood Charity Horse Show this year (previously attended by Chris Pine, Kaley Cuoco, Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto). The Painted Turtle’s equestrian program is a particular draw for Shatner, who says equine therapy (hippotherapy) helps children emotionally, socially and physically.

"We believe what's happening is that this large animal, which to many people portrays power and energy and authority, they're able to identify with," Shatner tells The Hollywood Reporter. "They are able to sense the stillness and equanimity of the horse itself. The horse is involved in living in the moment. It doesn't live in the past, and it doesn't live in the future. A horse, being a prey animal, lives in the now, what's going to eat me now. And that living in the now is the key to all this therapy. What can you do about yourself right now? Don't worry about what happened in the past. Don't anticipate what might happen in the future. You can't tell what will happen. What you can control is right now. This moment, while you take a breath. And that's what horses can teach us. … But it's the physical presence and this mystical thing that horses have that I think is the appeal."

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Camp Bob Waldorf

Glendale’s Camp Bob Waldorf provides a nonprofit camp experience for kids age 9 to 17 at about a quarter of the typical residential cost, allowing children from low-income communities to attend.

“Some are coming from single-parent homes, the foster system or living in temporary housing or a homeless shelter. A lot of our campers are getting service from different social agencies,” says camp director Zach Lasker.

Feldstein says: “This really might be the first exposure they have to that sort of environment away from home. It's very compelling.” He adds that he took his son, actor Jonah Hill, to visit during a weekend program. “We spent a full day there with him, telling them about his life as an actor and the red carpet and all that stuff that the kids were interested in. I think he probably got more out of it than the kids did."

Camp Bob Waldorf is owned by the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters agency, whose parent organization has been benefited by head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke, Mindy Kaling, Yara Shahidi, president at ABC Studios Patrick Moran, Sony Pictures TV’s Holly Jacobs, Sherry Lansing and Nick Cannon.

Lasker says the kids learn Krav Maga (Israeli self defense), horseback riding and farm-to-table cooking. “We believe in the power of camp. Being able to provide a safe space for these kids, where regardless of the background they're coming from, the moment they enter our gates, they are kids like every other kid.”

Donate online or call 323-761-8675.

Camp Hollywood HEART

Founded by producer and executive David Gale, Camp Hollywood HEART works with kids aged 6 to 20 who have been impacted by HIV. The campers learn cooking, filmmaking, music, dance and creative writing — Flight screenwriter John Gatins teaches a writing workshop. Volunteers have included Will Arnett, Charlize Theron, David Arquette, Michelle Williams, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Sharon Osborn and SpongeBob creator Stephen Hillenburg (who teaches an animation workshop).

Camp Hollywood HEART will host its annual dinner and fundraising gala on August 18 at the Malibu campsite. 

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