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May 14, 2018

Rahal's Admiration for Newman makes SeriousFun a must to Support

In the introduction to the 1992 book, “I Will Sing Life: Voices from the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp,” Paul Newman explained why he started the famous camp for children battling serious illnesses:

"I wanted, I think, to acknowledge Luck: the chance of it, the benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others; made especially savage for children because they may not be allowed the good fortune of a lifetime to correct it."

With the help of racers, Newman’s legacy of benevolence continues.

INDYCAR and SeriousFun Children’s Network, which operates the original Ashford, Connecticut, camp and 29 others around the world, have partnered to carry on the charitable cause of the late actor, racer and team owner. The partnership will help raise money and awareness for the network, including public-service announcements, fundraisers and track visits.

Graham Rahal, who drove for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing from 2007-2010, has taken the lead in helping the partnership. (Rahal is shown with Newman in the photo at right in 2008).

“There’s no man who ever had a larger effect on me as a person than Paul,” Rahal said. “Everything that we do relates to him. There’s no doubt about that.”

Named for the gang in the hit 1969 feature film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” starring Newman and Robert Redford, the camp launched in 1988 to give children with serious illnesses a place to have fun and, as Newman once said, “raise a little hell.” It eventually grew into SeriousFun’s network, which includes nine camps in the United States.

When he first heard about the partnership between SeriousFun and INDYCAR, 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden knew he had to be involved.

“It was an easy sell to get involved and be a part of it,” said Newgarden, who’s serving as a SeriousFun driver ambassador. “I grew up as a big fan of Paul Newman but unfortunately never got to spend much time with him. He was a true racer and a great guy. … He had a big passion for everything he did.”

SeriousFun recently delivered its one-millionth life-changing camp experience, all free of charge, for children and their families. It emerged from Newman’s goal to provide ill children with a fun experience. More camps emerged, funded by Newman’s Own, the food company that has raised $500 million for charitable causes since 1982.  

While famous as a movie star, Newman found his passion in motorsports. After filming “Winning” in 1969, he became deeply involved in racing. Partnering motorsports with his charitable causes is a natural fit.

“He was never all that comfortable in Hollywood and all of that,” said daughter Clea Newman, an ambassador for SeriousFun. “(Racing) was an extraordinary community that he was so comfortable in. It was like his other family. He was also known very much for giving back, and certainly giving back to people that were less fortunate than him. He also felt so lucky in his life.”

The official partnership will include a text-to-give program that urges fans to donate by texting “KIDS” to 900900. A public-service announcement will run throughout the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil runs on Sunday, May 27.

“This will be the very first time in INDYCAR’s history that we’ve had an official charity as part of our organization,” said C.J. O’Donnell, chief marketing officer for INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “While we’ve been committed to charities and continue to be across the paddock and throughout the series, this is a strong first step for us in establishing a tie with a charity that we feel is very much a part of us and has been a part of us for a long time.”

Newman died in 2008, but his philanthropic gifts continue. Rahal, whose dad Bobby first drove for Newman in Can-Am in 1982, started a foundation of his own in 2009.

“Instantly there was a huge void left for everyone in this sport,” Graham Rahal said of Newman’s death. “I felt I wanted to get more involved because of the spirit Paul had given me. My foundation was born from Paul and the inspiration he gave me. No person has had an influence on my life like Paul Newman in the time I had with him. … Trust me, Paul Newman – the name, the influence and all the thoughts and the time I got with him over those couple of years – it runs through me every single day.”

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