WESTPORT, Conn. — Ingrid Milne considered her future as she embarked on her career in accounting and finance.
“I love to travel, and I do want to help people,” she recalled thinking in London some years ago. “I want to do something useful with my life.”
Her concern for children came to the fore during travel in Asia, where she saw children as young as 3 years old working alongside their mothers. “They were hitting rocks to make roads,” Milne said. “Seeing that motivated me to do something global that makes a difference for children.”
As the chief financial and operating officer of SeriousFun Children's Network for over four years now, Milne does both.
SeriousFun, based in Westport, had its beginnings when Paul Newman founded the Hole in the Wall Gang camp in Ashford, Conn., for children with serious illnesses to spend some time having the kind of fun that every kid should be able to enjoy. Starting with that one camp, the SeriousFun Children’s Network has grown to now include camps and programs for children around the world.
Milne’s path to her current position included jobs with the BBC, a move from London to Weston, volunteering at and then working for Save the Children, and raising her own family of four children.
The CFO opening at SeriousFun Children’s Network attracted Milne’s attention partly because of a personal connection. The husband of one of her friends had been involved with Hole in the Wall Gang Camp as a child, after being diagnosed with thalassemia, a rare blood disorder. She has seen the network’s continued growth over the years.
“SeriousFun, since 1988, has grown tremendously,” Milne said. “From one camp in Ashford, then one in upstate New York, Barretstown in Ireland, and Boggy Creek, Florida, we now have 30 camps and programs around the world.”
Milne mentioned that all residential camps have state-of-the-art medical facilities, where campers who need a bit more care than the typical camp infirmary would provide can receive the treatment they need without interrupting their camp experience too much. These special infirmaries are decorated in keeping with the feel of each camp, rather than the typical ‘hospital feel’ that might be expected.
Milne explained that SeriousFun employees are encouraged to volunteer at one of the Network’s camps. She returned home with heart-touching memories after volunteering at Roundup River Ranch in Colorado.
“It’s one of the most life-affirming things you can do,” she said of being a camp volunteer. She shared the story of two girls who were attending camp at the same time.
A teenage girl, about 15, with long, blonde hair, befriended a 7-year-old who was undergoing active cancer treatments and had no hair.
“The 15-year-old looked after the 7-year-old,” Milne said. “It was so lovely.”
One day, the older girl, who had had a brain tumor, stood up in the dining room and spoke about how having cancer was a gift to her.
“She said it was a gift because she knew how to help other people who were going through cancer,” Milne said.
Milne also shared the story of a father and son who were at the camp in Colorado. One of the big draws at this particular camp is a zipline. The 10-year-old son was not daring to go on the zipline, so his father, who had a phobia about heights, decided to lead the way.
“He said, "If I’ll do it, then my son will do it. My son has to be brave all the time to take his medicines, so I can be brave this time,'” Milne related. “He stood for 15 or 20 minutes at the top of the tower. When he finally went, everyone cheered.
“When his son came down the zipline, I helped catch him at the end.”
For more information on how to donate, volunteer at, or attend a program of the SeriousFun Children's Network, visit www.seriousfunnetwork.org .