June 17, 2024

The Lasting Influence of Camp

“The SeriousFun camp experience has shaped everything around my life.”

Chris Woll, MD

Chris Woll, MD

Sometimes a hardship can change the trajectory of your life for the better. Dr. Chris Woll’s childhood cancer diagnosis was followed by the transformative experience of time spent at the Double H Ranch, the SeriousFun Children’s Network camp located in upstate NYThat helped inspire his lifelong commitment to helping others.

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Chris was diagnosed at age seven. His oncologist recommended that he spend a week the following summer at Double H Ranch. The 320-acre camp, located in the Adirondacks in beautiful Lake Luzerne, NY, was co-founded by Charles R. Wood and Paul Newman to serve children with life-threatening illnesses, and it’s part of the broader SeriousFun Children’s Network of camps and programs, also founded by Paul Newman.

Although terrified to leave home for the first time, his diagnosis and camp experience combined to help Chris decide early on that he wanted to become both a doctor and a medical director of a SeriousFun camp. He even told the camp CEO at the wise old age of seven that he wanted the camp director’s job. And he has fulfilled his own wish. “The SeriousFun camp experience has shaped everything around my life,” says Dr. Chris Woll, now a physician at Albany Medical Center and medical director of that same camp that changed his life, Double H Ranch. “There is no better place to be molded into a good human being than camp.”

Dr. Woll attended Double H Ranch every year from the ages of seven to 16 as a camper, enjoying the high ropes course, lakefront, and horse barn. It was such a big part of his life that afterwards he became a staff member, helping provide the same camp magic to new campers that had shaped his own life. “Nothing means more to me than to provide that camp experience for campers and to do so, hopefully, for generations to come,” he says.

Dr. Woll now specializes in pediatric emergency medicine at the Albany Medical Center. He earned his medical degree from SUNY Upstate Medical Center then went on to get board certified in pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine.

Camp influenced Chris’ life well beyond his choice of career. Some of his closest friendships began there, and in fact, he met his wife, a former camper and counselor, while working at camp. Their shared passion for camp and giving back shines through when they talk about their time there, with Chris effusing, “The SeriousFun camp was like a second home to me.”

“I’m glad that Paul Newman created a place where I could raise a little hell,” says Dr. Woll. It can be difficult to quantify the wide range of impacts that a week at summer camp can have on a seriously ill child. Chris’ experience at Double H Ranch greatly influenced his life, and the world is lucky to have such a committed and passionate physician, both as a day-to-day emergency worker and as current medical director of the camp he loves so much.

Chris Woll as a young camper
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