The daughter of legendary actor Paul Newman fulfills her father's philanthropic wishes
Legendary actor Paul Newman gave his family strict instructions on what to do with his money: "Give it all away." Now, the youngest daughter of the late celebrity and his actress wife, Joanne Woodward, is helping assure that vision is executed.
Clea Newman Soderlund, 48 of Conn., is the senior director of external affairs at the SeriousFun Children's Network, a global community of independently managed camps and programs founded by Newman that serve seriously ill children, free of charge. Central Ohio's Flying Horse Farms is one of the network's 14 bricks-and-mortar camps, and Soderlund recently visited for its annual fundraiser, Beneath the Stars. While in town, we talked with the philanthropist.
You have two very famous parents, but they never acted "important," you say.
We were really raised knowing that if you grow up in a famous family, part of your job was to fix things that were not working… (that) you should focus on trying to make a difference, no matter what your other job is. And I'm grateful, because it simplifies your life, focusing on other people.
Your father started selling Newman's Own food products to continue generating money to give away after he died: 100 percent of the profits benefit his foundation. How much a year is made? And what does it support?
We give away about $30 million a year, and we keep an emergency fund for natural disasters. I think last year we gave to almost 1,000 charities all over the world. It's pretty much the most fun job ever.
Years ago, your father had a friend with cancer. Back then, pediatric wards did not exist, and when your father visited his friend in the hospital, he felt terrible for the children who had been thrown into the cancer ward. They needed a place to go and have fun, he thought. Thus, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was born-and spawned what would become an entire network of camps.
He was so lucky in his life, and he felt he needed to do something really long-lasting. There were a lot of people who said to my father, "You're an actor and you want to start a camp for seriously ill kids? What do you know about camping and sick kids?" And he was like, "Nothing, but I'm going to find out." From the time he bought the first property and the time it opened, it was 18 months. And it just had its 25th anniversary.
Why did you get involved?
I wanted to be a lawyer. I have good argumentative skills. [laughing] But I worked for a criminal law firm for a year, and I realized law wasn't for me. So I came home, to the horror of my parents, who were like, "Oh my God-you're 25." I stayed in the pool house. And when I was coming home, my dad said to me, "We have this woman who is out on maternity leave at Newman's Own." So I went to the office every day and did endless odd jobs, and ended up working with my dad on researching all these charities. And it just really opened my eyes.
Your "aha" moment, however, came when you became a camp counselor.
It changed me from being a spoiled brat. I went one person and left another. When you find something that is going to be your life's work, it changes you.
What continues inspiring you?
Kids, every day. Volunteers. Staff. ... It makes you realize there is so much good in the world.
Flying Horse Farms worked hard to become one of "your" camps. What makes it special-and worthy of that designation?
People. The facilities are all beautiful. And God knows there's so much time and energy put into creating the right landscape for the kids to have fun. But if you don't have the right people with the right enthusiasm… It's the people.
What have these children taught you?
Be in the moment. If you're in the moment, you don't miss things.
Words to live by: What are yours?
I probably would have answered this differently at 25. At almost 50, I would say to give is significantly better than to receive.