Paul Newman looked back over his years as an Academy Award-winning actor, race car driver and family man, and said his new camp for seriously ill children may be the most important accomplishment of his life.

"It's certainly a contender," Newman said in Ashford, Conn., Saturday. "It may ultimately turn out to be the champ. It depends on how it goes."The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a $17 million project that includes the camp and an endowment, was started by Newman in 1986 and is scheduled to open this month for children with life-threatening diseases.

Newman's food company, Newman's Own Inc., donated $7 million to the camp. He raised another $7 million from donations. A.E. Hotchner, Newman's business partner and friend, said $3 million more is needed to complete the camp's endowment.

"The thing I wanted to do was to endow it, not just build it," Newman said. "Five years from now I don't want it turned into a retirement place for executives."

The camp, which is free for children ages 7 to 17, is on about 300 acres straddling Ashford and Eastford and is modeled after a frontier logging town of the old Wild West.

There is horseback riding, boating, a baseball field, tennis courts, a gymnasium, dining hall and spacious cabins with sitting rooms and front porches. Golf carts are available for transportation around the camp.

"This is not a rich man's camp," Newman said. "It's free, and there is still room for more kids."