Jane Fonda Shares Her Passion for Charity

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Photo Source: Blake Gardner
Playing an activist in “Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding” comes naturally to Jane Fonda, who has famously taken up notable causes over the years. What many people may not know is how personally involved she has become with some individuals over the years. For 15 years, she and then-husband Tom Hayden ran Laurel Springs Children’s Camp in Northern California, a performing arts camp that took in a spectrum of children. “It had kids of movie stars and studio-head kids and kids who came through parole offices and kids that couldn’t speak English,” Fonda says. “There were kids who’d never had a room of their own and kids who had never made their own beds because they had maids. And they were all together, and that’s what made it special.”

Through the camp she first met Mary Williams, whom Fonda adopted when Williams was 14. Known as Lulu, Williams was the daughter of Black Panthers; she wrote an article for the February 2011 issue of O Magazine about reconnecting with her birth family. Says Fonda, “When she came to live with me, I asked her, ‘Why was the camp important to you?’ She said, ‘It was the first time I ever met people who thought about the future.’ That sentence has informed the work I do now with kids. Middle-class people, of course we think about the future. We don’t realize that disadvantaged kids, who are subjected to violence and racism, they think about Saturday. They don’t think about the future.”

Three and a half years ago, Fonda began mentoring a woman in Arizona who wanted to change her life. “She was a gangbanger, she ran drugs, and we began to email,” Fonda says. “It’s such an interesting email exchange, I may turn it into a book. Because what it shows is, it’s not rocket science. A kid like that just needs a witness. So having somebody that comes from a different world be there to say, ‘You’re going on an interview? Here’s something really important: Shake their hand, and look them right in the eye.’ ” Fonda adds that the woman attended Arizona State and now has a job. “And just Saturday, she graduated with a master’s in education.”

Jane Fonda will appear on the cover of this week’s Back Stage, on newsstands on Thursday!

Jenelle Riley is the Film & TV Editor at Back Stage. Follow her on Twitter: @jenelleriley