Like any little girl, I always looked forward to birthday parties and, of course, gifts! But learning from my Mother and Father the power of generosity, I also LOVED giving gifts and spent a lot of time choosing or making special things for my friends and loved ones.
My parents were always the most thoughtful in the gifts they chose for me and my sisters. They certainly hit the nail on the head when after riding for years and proving I could handle the responsibility, they gave me a pony for my ninth birthday. We were both the same age, and he was a little naughty, but taught me so much. I loved him so and he was with me for 33 years! (Talk about the gift that keeps on giving).
Clea, a few years before her ninth birthday, with her mom Joanne Woodward
Clea sharing a happy laugh at a horse show with her dad Paul Newman
Celebrating my parents’ birthdays was also a special treat and homemade gifts were always a hit in my family. My father wore the needlepoint belt I made for him, bearing his initials surrounded by fox heads, dutifully until it started to fray. I like to believe it was one of his favorite birthday gifts since, as the good Daddy he was, he was rarely seen without it. (Not many people knew his nickname was The Old Fox).
But today, on what would have been my father’s 93rd birthday, I want to focus not on the types of gifts that come in boxes with bows, but the ones that last long past the party. While my father was a skilled gift giver, he was so much more than that. He had a special GIFT.
The special belt Clea made for her dad, Paul, bearing his initials
He had the gift of vision and forward thinking. He saw the potential for people to change the world just by putting themselves in the shoes of others who were less fortunate. He saw that if given the opportunity to support charities in simple ways, the world would welcome it – turning moms, college kids, and frozen pizza loving bachelors into philanthropists in their own right.
He had the gift of merging simplicity with creativity. When he recognized the immense need for children living with serious illnesses to rediscover their childhood and get the chance to just be a kid, if only for a few moments or days, he created a camp. Such a simple idea, creatively executed so every child receives the highest quality medical care but all they see and feel is the fun – truly ingenious.
And he had the gift of getting stuff done. This simple idea, amongst many others he had, were enough to scare some people – and they told him so.
"There’s no way you can get that done."
"It will take forever."
"You can’t change a sick kid’s life through camp."
Well he did.
And it didn’t.
And we are.
So, thank you Pop, for sharing your special gift with us – and countless children and families around the world. I am forever proud of all the amazing things you accomplished, and most of all, for being your daughter.
Clea and Paul enjoying what they love at camp