In the 12 years that Travelers has served as title sponsor of Connecticut’s largest sporting event – the Travelers Championship – a lot has changed. The tournament has become a must-play among PGA Tour players thanks in large part to the leadership of Travelers, the tournament staff, and thousands of volunteers.
One thing hasn’t changed, however. Since 2007, when Travelers stepped up and took over as title sponsor, the tournament has had a steadfast commitment to giving back to the community that so strongly supports the event. That pledge is best exemplified in the more than $40 million the tournament has generated for charity since 1952. A year ago, $2 million was distributed to over 150 charities throughout the region.
“Being able to partner with and help hundreds of local charities is the main reason we sponsor the Travelers Championship,” said Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Travelers. “Our company is committed to taking care of the communities where employees work and customers live, so we feel a civic responsibility to make the Travelers Championship as good as it can be, every single year. Because if we have success, the real winners are the charities.”
Among those charities is The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut. Started in 1988 by award-winning actor Paul Newman as a way to provide a “different kind of healing” to seriously ill children and family members, the Camp is the primary beneficiary of the annual event at TPC® River Highlands. In the years since the Camp first partnered with the tournament, it has grown significantly, now serving more than 20,000 children and family members annually. That growth is thanks in part to its partnership with the tournament.
“The Travelers Championship not only provides us with crucial funds but also an invaluable platform for us to share our mission broadly and continue to build awareness,” said Ryan Thompson, the Camp’s Chief Development and Communications Officer. “With our founder Paul Newman no longer with us, this partnership with the Travelers Championship has allowed us to dream the biggest dreams possible and take his dream of ‘a different kind of healing’ to exciting new places.”
In its first year, the Camp served only 288 children. But as awareness and funding from a community of donors and partners, including Travelers and the Travelers Championship, has grown, so has the Camp. Today, the Camp offers year-round programming both onsite at its facility in Ashford and throughout the Northeast. Seven week-long summer sessions allow seriously ill children to experience typical camp activities like horseback riding, fishing, and arts & crafts, while learning they are capable of more than they imagined. An eighth session gives their healthy siblings the opportunity to build friendships with others who understand what they are going through while creating shared experiences with their brother or sister. In addition, Family Weekends at the Camp and regional Family Outreach activities extend programming to the entire family while Hospital Outreach brings camp-style activities to children in hospital settings.
Camp programs are free of charge, thanks to support from thousands of donors each year.
“During a week-long summer camp session, campers’ medical needs are completely taken care of and they’re surrounded by 120 other children who understand what they’re going through,” Thompson said. “For children who are often very isolated, the camp provides a sense of community and belonging and a place of acceptance. They’re able to forge a community of support and it is profoundly healing.”
While the most well-known aspect of the organization’s work is located in Ashford, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp also reaches patients in more than 40 hospital locations from Boston to Philadelphia.
“We’ve enjoyed a wonderful relationship with The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp over the years,” Travelers Championship Tournament Director Nathan Grube said. “Most people are focused on tournament week in June, when we experience a great event and watch the best golfers in the world. But our best day of the year is in the fall, when we hold our Charity Celebration and hand out checks to participating nonprofits that will make a lasting impact on so many worthy causes.”