Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Project Exile Blog Update


As the Chairman of the Project Exile Advisory Board for the past 16 years, and all that we’ve done to try to remove illegal guns off of our streets, the recent killing of Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson shows that, as a community, we still have a ways to go. It is for that reason that I am devoting this blog to talking about what I believe, once and for all, our community can and must do to reduce the number of illegal guns that are out there, and are in the hands of people who have lost their rights to possess them.

First off, every facet of our community, law enforcement, community leaders, elected officials must speak with one voice. I cannot think of a better, simpler message than that of Project Exile: You + Illegal Gun = Prison. It’s something that anyone can understand. What it does for the law abiding citizens in our community is let them know that we take the problem of illegal guns seriously. Secondly, if we can prevent a few people who’ve heard our message from taking a gun that they are not supposed to have on the streets, we can literally save lives.

Our whole community needs to take an initiative and become involved. It’s the same when it comes to our nation’s security; if you see something, say something. All of us have a responsibility, that if we see someone in the possession of a gun, especially a handgun, that we know should not have one, it’s imperative that we let the authorities know. Someone who is underage, out on parole, or on probation, someone with a history of domestic violence, someone with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, or someone that was dishonorably discharged from the military, these people have lost their rights to possess a handgun. If we see someone who fits into one of those categories, in possession of a handgun, we cannot wait until someone gets hurt or it is too late. We need to let the authorities know. It’s not being a snitch; it’s helping to save lives and being a responsible citizen in our community. Also, law abiding residents ought not to purchase a gun through a straw purchase, for someone who they know cannot legally possess a firearm. If someone asks them to do so, they should also report that person to the authorities.

Thirdly, we must encourage all of the legal gun owners in our community to be responsible gun owners. When we ask gun owners, “Why did you want a gun?” the answer is nearly always “to protect themselves and family or business/property.” If that gun is not directly in their possession, it cannot do what its intended use is. Gun owners need not be negligent and leave their guns where they can be stolen. Responsible gun owners do not leave their guns in their car, under their seat, or in their glove-box when they are not in their car. They don’t leave their gun underneath their pillow, mattress, or in their nightstand when they are not in the house. If broken into, these guns turn into quick cash on the street. They are easy to sell due to their size, and often end up in the wrong hands; the hands of criminals. Several years ago, when we looked at the gun problem, here in our community, we learned that over one third of the crime guns were guns that were legally purchased by law abiding citizens, that were stolen, right here, and got into the hands of people who ought not to have them.

Each month, throughout the year, the Project Exile Advisory Board meets, which it has done for the last 16 years. As representatives from law enforcement and prosecutors from the local, state and federal levels, community agencies, clergy, the media, and the general public, it’s representative of our community, that we come together to try to combat this very serious problem. I can personally vouch that the cooperation that exists in this community is rarely seen, not only in this state, but in this country. The result is the Project Exile program has been recognized as an example in Albany, Washington D.C., and in New York City, and throughout the country.

We can make a difference. We need to make a difference. I believe this is the most serious problem facing our community. We need to be one community, and we can be that one community if people come together and make our community a safe place to work and raise a family.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Flood Update

Hello friends,

I know it has been quite some time since my last post. As many of you know, in mid May, Camp Good Days was hit with two floods that came just two days apart. We've been picking up the pieces, but I wanted to give a brief update on the situation at Camp. With a little bit of luck, we will be able to have our 35th Anniversary summer as planned.

Thank you to everyone who has donated, volunteered, called, emailed, and posted on social media to show their support for Camp Good Days. We are #CGDStrong, and we are fortunate to have the friends that we do.

- Gary

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wine Time!

We are into crunch time here at Camp Good Days, as we are not only in the process of preparing the Recreational Facility for all of the summer camping programs and obtaining all of the permits in order to operate our programs, but we also have some special fundraising events coming up.

Over the past 14 years, the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and Wine Auction Dinner has become the largest fundraising event in the Greater Rochester area to benefit the children and families we serve. The 14th Annual Wine Auction Dinner will take place on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at the Rochester Plaza Hotel, 70 State Street, Downtown Rochester. This exciting evening will begin with a Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Live Auction Preview at 5:30 PM, and the Auction Dinner at 7:00 PM. Once again this year, Matthew Chung will serve as the Lead Auctioneer and Rich Funke will be our Master of Ceremonies.


The 14th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, which was held March 29 & 30, 2014, was a resounding success. More than 3750 wines were entered into the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. These entries came from 940 wineries, including 120 New York State wineries, from 21 different countries around the world, all 50 states and six Canadian Provinces.

THANK YOU to all the amazingly dedicated volunteers. To everyone who helped out this weekend, I cannot thank you enough. We cannot do what we do without our volunteers, and especially this weekend. Whether you washed glasses, uncorked wine, poured it, tasted it or made the bourbon s’mores, you contributed to another fantastic year at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

Also, special thanks to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who stopped by Sunday afternoon to see what the wine competition was all about, meet some volunteers, and welcome our judges to New York State.




All of the wines were evaluated by a world-renowned panel of judges representing distributors, educators, enologists, sommeliers, restaurateurs, winemakers and writers from all over the United States and around the world. The judges awarded Double Gold (unanimous), Gold, Silver and Bronze medals and the medal winning wines will be featured at the Wine Auction Dinner, along with a delicious meal, great friends and conversation, and fabulous silent and live auction items.




Tickets to attend the Wine Auction Dinner are $150.00 per person and can be purchased by calling Camp Good Days at 585-624-5555 or online via www.fliwc.com or www.campgooddays.org.

If you love wine, this is the event you want to attend. Tickets would also make a fantastic gift for that special someone. In addition to having a wonderful time and tasting some of the best wine in the world, you will leave that evening knowing that you have helped to create some good days and special times for some very special children and families.




In addition to the Wine Auction Dinner, we will host the 31st Annual Tournament of Love Golf Tournament on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at Monroe Golf Club, one of the premier clubs in the Rochester area. Monroe Golf Pro Jim Mrva is this year’s Honorary Chair, and it will truly be a special day. We’ve shifted the Tournament of Love to benefit our Women’s Oncology Program, and this year, golfers can play with a PGA club pro!

There are a few remaining Sponsorship, Advertising, and Participation options available for the 31st Annual Tournament of Love and more information is available by contacting Nicole Jones at Camp Good Days, 585-624-5555 ornjones@campgooddays.org, or online at www.campgooddays.org.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Night of Gratitude!

There are few places in which you can bring together a group of people, of varying age, race, gender, and life experience, and have them all be there for the same reason – to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. I have been so blessed over the past 35 years that Camp Good Days is one of those rare places. We have had thousands and thousands of volunteers and supporters over the years that have all come to Camp Good Days with one common goal – to improve the quality of life for children and their families whose lives have been touched by cancer.


Thanks to Scott Pitoniak for being a great emcee for the event! 

Each year, we honor some of these men and women who have truly gone above and beyond in helping us to fulfill our mission at our Annual Night of Gratitude. Some 300 guests including our honorees, their families, friends, and other volunteers and supporters of Camp Good Days gathered together at the Rochester Plaza in downtown Rochester.

During A Night of Gratitude, we recognized those individuals selected as recipients of the Teddi Award, named in memory of my daughter, Teddi, the inspiration behind Camp Good Days, who are all people who throughout the course of 2013 gave above and beyond to the children and families at Camp Good Days.

THANK YOU to all of our Teddi Award recipients for all they did to help Camp Good Days and CONGRATULATIONS on your Teddi Award! The Teddi Award winners were: Michaela Altobelli, Velma Campbell, Alyssa Ciliberto, Stephanie Clark, Gregory Connors, Paul Vecchio and Dave Murray, Ben Eisenhunt, Ismael Figueroa, Isabele Henry, Ben Higgins, Chrissy Judge, Katie Judge, Cheol Kessler, Christopher Keyes, Andrew Knoblauch, Gail Koch, Patty Lent, Keara Lowenhar, Connie Marrow, Jeffrey Musial ,Lauren Naramore ,John and Evelen Nobrega, Matt Park, Rich Randall and The Rochester Lancers, Lou Spiotti, Kelsey Thomas, John Trojanowski, The Valenti Family, Leslie Zinck and Erik Ward, April Wright, and Samantha Zagskorn.



We also recognized those selected for induction into the Camp Good Days’ Ring of Honor. The Ring of Honor was established as part of Camp Good Days’ 25th Anniversary Celebration in 2004 and includes those who are selected for their outstanding dedication, commitment and support of the thousands of children and families served over the years. In addition to their award, inductee’s names will be included in the permanent Ring of Honor display, which is located at the Camp Good Days’ Recreational Facility, in Branchport, NY, for all to see.

The Ring of Honor Inductees are: Jean Bartholomew, Melinda Cooper, Kim and Tony DiChario, Deb Gollus, Judy and Merrill Greenstein, Otto Harnischfeger, Annie Zimmerman and Joe Benedetto, Jill and Richard McPhee, Laura Osborn, Tom Reed, Pete Sidari, Lynne and Randy Stiefler, Gary Sullivan, Bunny Vahue, Jay and Jay Jay Vanderstyne, and Allison Wright.





Words are not enough to express the years of volunteer service and astounding financial support these inductees have given to the children and families at Camp Good Days… CONGRATULATIONS to all of our Ring of Honor Inductees and THANK YOU for everything you have done and continue to do to help Camp Good Days!

Over the past 35 years, Camp Good Days has served more than 45,000 campers from 22 states and 29 foreign countries! We have received the coveted Four-Star Rating from CharityNavigator.org and we have been inducted into the Safety 1st Hall of Fame by Markel Insurance Companies. The only reason we have been able to do this and that we are able to continue all that we do is because of the support we receive from so many, like all those selected as Teddi Award recipients and inductees into the Ring of Honor.

It has been said that the two greatest gifts we as human beings can give to one another is our time and our love…all of those we recognized and honored at A Night of Gratitude have given so much of both and they are truly so very much appreciated!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

FM Dance Marathon

The Fayetteville Manlius community means so much to Camp Good Days. Not only do they raise a significant amount of money for our programs, but they provide some of the best volunteers/staff that CGD has during the summer. This past Saturday I had the pleasure of speaking during the 23rd Annual Fayetteville Manlius Dance Marathon. 



The FM Dance Marathon is a classic example of kids helping kids. It's truly gratifying seeing the students giving it their all for our campers, many of which they will never meet. It refreshes your belief in our youth, and I'm truly proud of the job they did. Over 15 campers attended the Dance Marathon, and they had a blast with the FM students.  



At Camp Good Days, you see the human spirit soar. It's been said that CGD can renew your faith. Seeing all the students at the FM Dance Marathon being so selfless and promoting the mission of Camp Good Days was extremely inspiring. We cannot express enough how much the $105,000 you raised will help our programs. Thank you for another job well done! 


Thursday, February 27, 2014

32nd Annual Teddi Dance For Love


Wow! What else can I say?
Sixty-three thousand, six hundred and fourteen dollars. What the Teddi Dance For Love committee does every year in honoring Teddi’s legacy is truly remarkable. Thank you to Jenny, Olivia, and the rest of the committee for everything this year.
 
This year, the Dance For Love was something that I really needed. I had just found out prior to the Dance For Love that my close friend, Chris McVicker, who was a longtime friend to both myself and Camp Good Days, had passed away. The Teddi Dance is somewhere that I can always count on to put a smile on my face, even in the toughest of times. The impact of the Dance For Love is something that is impossible for me to convey how much it means.
What a touching tribute to Sam Parker, who was a former Courage Bowl Honorary Coach. I'm sure Sam was smiling down on you all as you danced through the night.
 
Dr. Lou Buttino, who started the Teddi Dance For Love, said that “immortality is being loved by anonymous people.” Thanks to the Dance For Love, students who have been born well after Teddi passed away, have been able to keep her memory and spirit alive. To me, as a dad, what greater gift could you ever give?
 
When I see the Mastercard commercials saying, “Priceless,” when the committee chants “Teddi, Teddi, Teddi,” for me, it is priceless.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chris McVicker - You Will Be Missed


Camp Good Days and Special Times mourns the loss of Chris McVicker, longtime member of our Board of Directors. More importantly, the families & children of Camp Good Days and I lost a very special angel this weekend.
How do you describe a genuinely good person? Chris was the Chairman/CEO of the Flanders Group, a business that he built over the past 30 years. He was someone you could always depend on. His actions spoke much louder than his words.

There has never been a time where I went to Chris for help and had to ask twice. He was always there for us. Chris was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was a good husband to his wife Bernadette, and a tremendous father to three young ladies that he was so proud of. He was a good boss to his employees, and someone who was a true asset to our entire community.
 
Chris will be missed by all those whose life’s he touched in big and small ways. He made the world a better place for everyone who had the opportunity to get to know him.

Rest In Peace, Chris, you will truly be missed.
Chris and his wife Bernadette were Honorary Chairs of the 30th Anniversary concert featuring Ronnie Millsap.