The 521 students at Saugatuck Elementary School this week will be "walking" to Saugatuck, Mich., to raise money for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Founded in 1988 by Paul Newman, the late actor, director, philanthropist and long-time Westport resident, the charity offers free camping experiences for seriously ill children and their families.

Actually, the youngsters won't be making the 822-mile trek from Saugatuck to Saugatuck. But collectively, they aim to walk that many miles to raise money for the camp.

School officials determined that four laps around the school's outdoor field equal one mile and it's about 822 or so miles to that Michigan town, according to Amie Peck, co-chairwoman of the event.

So students will be very busy walking individual laps each day to get to that schoolwide goal of nearly 1,700 laps by the Friday deadline.

Monday was the kick-off for the event, attended by guest speakers Lissy Newman, Paul Newman's daughter, and Andrea Keefe, representing the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

The camp is "dedicated to providing a different kind of healing to seriously ill children and their families throughout the Northeast, free of charge," according to its website.

"This is a super cool camp," Newman told the students assembled on the school's athletic field. "Children go there and forget about their illnesses and hospitals."

Newman said she's volunteered at the camp herself, and so have her husband and son. "I'm so glad you chose our organization," she said. "I just can't thank you enough -- Walk on!"

Keefe also thanked the students at the Riverside Avenue school for their support. She added that every dollar raised would be matched, one for one, by Positive Tracks, a national, youth-centric, non-profit charity.

"That means it will be doubling your fundraising efforts," she said before leading the children in a cheer they use at the Hole in the Wall Gang camp. "Don't forget to cheer yourselves on," she added.

Newman said it costs $2,500 to send one child to the camp. The school is hoping to raise $5,000 to send two children and -- if they reach their goal and with the matching funds -- four children will be able to attend.

Newman said the matching funds came as a surprise to her. "I didn't know about it until today," she said.

"You're getting healthy and raising money for a great cause," Saugatuck Principal Beth Messler told the students at the start of the rally.

Messler then read a letter she received from the principal of Douglas Elementary School in Saugatuck, Mich., where its 372 students did their 822-mile "walk" to the Westport school as part of their "sister" event last week.

She said they were pleased to be chosen to take part in the "walk."

The Saugatuck students will be walking laps every day at recess and at other specified times before and after school.

They were encouraged to to collect pledges of financial support -- either a set amount, or a certain amount per lap, said Peck.

"This is a very fun twist to the ordinary walking initiatives," added Jodi Harris, Saugatuck PTA publicity co-chairwoman

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was founded by Newman to give every child -- no matter their illness -- the chance to "raise a little hell," according to the camp's website.

It says that including the charity's summer camp in the upstate town of Ashford, the organization runs nine programs that serve more than 30,000 children and families throughout the Northeast each year.