People who attend, work and volunteer at Hole in the Wall Gang Camp say they are heartbroken after a massive fire destroyed two buildings on the camp's site in Ashford.
Ashford fire officials said they responded to an alarm and several calls for smoke around 4:54 p.m. When they arrived they found very heavy fire in the main camp building, which is one building with small interconnected areas within.
According to the camp's CEO, nobody was injured in the Friday night fire, but the camp's arts and crafts, woodshop, cooking zone and camp store buildings are all destroyed.
Legendary actor Paul Newman founded the camp in 1988. Since then, they have provided medically-supervised summer camps and programs free of charge to children with serious illnesses.
“All of these good times I had there and it is gone like that," said Jack Krupienski from Vernon, reacting to video of the fire. "It is saddening really.”
Krupienski started attending Hole in the Wall Gang Camp when he was 9 years old and just months after he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
“I would not shut up about all of the amazing things the place had to offer and from that point on, it was just my place to be," said Krupienski, who now attends college in Boston.
Krupienski said that camp gave him an opportunity to forget about his worries and just focus on being a kid.
It is the same reason that Daniela Ciriello's family loves camp. They call it their "home away from home."
“When we are there, we kind of forget the outside world," said Daniel Ciriello, Daniela's father. "You forget medical bills and hospitals and doctors and concerns and you’re just there having fun.”
Daniela is living with a serious blood disorder. The Plainville family was introduced to camp four years ago. Daniela says it is her favorite place in the world.
“The place is special and to see those buildings that we have so many memories in and so many pictures from is just heartbreaking," said Ciriello.
Brandi Chapman is also having trouble processing the images of the fire.
She grew up in Ashford and was introduced to camp at a young age. At age 16, she started working at camp and eventually became a counselor. She has been connected ever since and said that the camp has changed her life.
“There’s really no other words to describe what camp means to people besides the most incredible place in the world," said Chapman.
As difficult as it is for the families to see the tragic images of the fire tonight, they are confident that the community will rebuild.
“Camp is going to go on," said Ciriello.
“This is not a community that gives up easily. Things will get better. They always do," said Krupienski. "We go on and we raise a little hell. This is just a bump in the road.”