Friday, January 29, 2016

Scott Norwood & The Teddi Dance for Love


It is hard to believe that it was 25 years ago that the Buffalo Bills played in one of the closest games in Super Bowl history and Scott Norwood missed the kick, far right.  It is also hard to believe that many people don't know more about Scott and the fact that he was not only a good kicker, with a great NFL career, but he is a fantastic person and someone who has always loved and supported the children we serve at Camp Good Days and Special Times. 

When he was with the Bills, Scott started the Kicking for Kids program in which donations were made for every successful field goal, to benefit Camp Good Days.  That program was carried on by Steve Christie, who had never even met Scott, but had great respect for him, and still goes on today.  Scott has taken the time to visit the Camp Good Days' Recreational Facility to personally spend time with the campers and volunteers, and one year, during our Doing A World Of Good Program, for children with cancer from countries around the world, he helped to make it possible for them to attend a Bills' game, helping to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of them.  Scott also has taken the time of his schedule to attend the Camp Good Days' Tournament of Love Golf Tournament many, many times over the years. 

One of the most memorable visits that Scott made though, was to attend the Teddi Dance for Love at St. John Fisher College.  The 34th Annual Teddi Dance for Love is taking place tonight, starting at 8PM through tomorrow night at 8PM, at St. John Fisher College, and it was 25 years ago, shortly after that fateful Super Bowl, that Scott went above and beyond.  The students that year, given all the excitement about the Bills, wanted to have someone from the team attend the Dance for Love and speak to the dancers.  I asked Scott if he would be willing to come and to his credit, he said yes, and he came to Rochester that weekend and attended the event, and spoke to the dancers and volunteers about how much their efforts, support and generosity, meant to the children of Camp Good Days.  There are not many people, being in the situation and spotlight that he was in at that time, who would have agreed to that request. 

Following that Super Bowl, Scott never backed away from what had happened and in fact, answered all of the reporters' questions that night; and you will never find a teammate of Scott's who will point their finger at him or have anything negative to say about him.  Scott was a good kicker, but more importantly, he is a great person, a great husband and father, and a true first-class human being.  He is someone that I am pleased to consider a friend and someone I am forever grateful to for his generous support of the children and families we serve.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Moonshot Mission


As many of you know, our motto here at Camp Good Days is “adapt and adjust”, and with that in mind, that is why I am posting again today.  In Tuesday’s night State of the Union Address, President Obama talked about “Moonshot” and the effort to try and find the answers to cancer.  He stated, “For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. What do you think? Let’s make it happen.”  And he shared that he has tasked Vice President Biden with leading this mission. 

I am so pleased and so excited that our leader has finally chosen someone to lead this effort, and in Vice President Biden, I have so much hope because I believe that he will take this task very seriously, and dedicate the necessary time and energy, given his personal, and so recent experience within his own family, with the battle his son endured and ultimately succumbed to.  I hope that we can look at 2016 as the year when we all took a giant step forward in finding the answers that all of us involved with Cancer Mission 2020 have been seeking and working towards. 

It is somewhat ironic, and somewhat full-circle, that Cancer Mission 2020 launched in 2009, following President Obama’s first State of the Union Address in which he said that cancer is a disease that touches all of us and we can defeat cancer in our lifetime.  I have been waiting such a long time to have a President use his bully pulpit to address cancer in this country.  Cancer is not a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Conservative, Liberal, or Tea Party issue – it is a people issue. 

Cancer touches all of us.  11,000 Americans die each week from cancer. That’s unacceptable. What’s worse is that these people do not live in a vacuum. They’re our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends, or in my case, my child, Teddi.  It is as if one of the Twin Towers is falling every single day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. 

It is pretty hard to understand how we, as a country, have given a blank check to protecting the homeland – to the tune of some 2-3 Trillion Dollars – but if you asked someone if they were more afraid of being attacked by a terrorist or going to the doctor and walking out with a diagnosis of cancer, I would venture to say that cancer is the bigger fear.  And it is no surprise that people are in fear of cancer.  If you are a woman, you have a one in three chance of being diagnosed with cancer, and if you’re a man, the chances are one in two, in your lifetime.  Those are NOT very great odds. 

We all need to commit ourselves to do what we can to help Vice President Biden in his mission and to find the answers to cancer so that we can one day be a country that doesn’t have to live in fear of a cancer diagnosis. 

Here at Camp Good Days, we continue to collect signatures on our Cancer Mission 2020 Petition, which supports clinical trials, as clinical trials are where the answers are going to come from.  If you have not visited our Cancer Mission 2020 website, www.cancermission2020.org, I encourage you to do so, and to sign our petition, and then share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers.  Join us, and join Vice President Biden, to let everyone know that we want finding the answers to cancer put on the front burner, so that we can all, as Americans, be rid of the fear of cancer and truly enjoy good days and special times!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Reflections for the New Year



Here we are, another New Year.  The New Year always brings with it the need to plan for the coming year, but this one also brings the realization that time goes so quickly and things happen every day, things we don’t expect but are forced to deal with and which make us think and reflect.

On New Year’s Eve, I went to the cemetery to visit Teddi, and when I got there, a woman was sitting close to Teddi’s grave, at a new gravesite, obviously very sad and troubled.  I couldn’t help but notice her and had to go talk to her.   When I asked who she was visiting, she said her daughter, who had died from an overdose.  I gave her my condolences and shared that I was also there to visit my daughter.  I only spent a few minutes with her, as she needed her time with her daughter and I needed mine, but when I went to leave, she was gone.  She never made a sound, but I can only hope that I helped her in some small way and that a small act of kindness helped to make her day just a little bit more bearable.  
One never knows the impact that we might have on someone else’s life and we may never realize, until much later, the impact that someone else has on our life.  I recently saw in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that Mrs. Letha Ridley had passed away, at the age of 104.  All of a sudden I was taken back many years ago when I was just starting out on my career.  I was substitute teaching in the Rochester City School District and I was looking for a way in which to get more hours and more money and I learned of a few schools that needed subs and one of those was School #20, where Mrs. Ridley, a true pioneer, was the Principal. I was fortunate enough to be able to sub in that school and I learned so much from her.  Looking back, those were such difficult times in the Rochester area, as it was the late 60’s and early 70’s. She was a very tiny, African-American woman but she was strong and tall in her commitment to the children and their education.  She was in a very unique position, as that school was in the heart of the city, but inside those walls, she said the most important thing for the teachers was to set high expectations and educate their students and to then help the children reach those expectations.  If the teachers strived for those goals, she would always have their back, no matter what.  I was able to spend a lot of time with Mrs. Ridley, asking her questions and learning from her, which helped me to become the person I am.

As life goes, I moved on in my life and career and we lost touch, but when I saw the article about her passing, I went back through my archives and found the reference letter she wrote for me; one that I have saved all these years because it meant so much to me.  She truly helped to shape the person I am today, and helped to create the person who is so devoted and committed to making a difference in the lives of our youth, and especially those who are facing some of life’s most difficult battles, through no fault of their own.    

Here we are, Camp Good Days is in its 37th year and going strong because of the continual support of so many and although we fight every day to find the answers to cancer, we still recognize and are dedicated to fulfilling the need for so many dealing with this horrible disease.
As we all take some time to reflect, I resolve this year to not rush and to appreciate each and every single day; to take the time to always practice kindness and gratitude, for those I know and those I don’t know…because you never know how you might impact someone’s life.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kya: A daddy's diary

Now that the St. John Fisher College Football season is over, I have had a chance to relax a little bit and catch up on some reading. Last fall, I was sent a copy of Kya: A daddy’s diary, written by Jeremy Bach, a Canandaigua resident who works at Thompson Hospital as an Operating Room Technician. The title immediately caught my eye, and I’m glad I read it.


Kya: A daddy’s diary is a quick read, and is written about Jeremy’s daughter, Kya, and her fight against a rare form of cancer as it's told through his diary, which documented his daughter's struggle against her illness. Although Kya is still undergoing chemotherapy until April, he remains incredibly upbeat. Furthermore, he wants to be a resource to other fathers who may be going through the same thing his family is.

 

The book is currently selling on Amazon and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Golisano Children’s Hospital. I’d recommend purchasing it and reading it this holiday season.

I wish all of the Camp Good Days family a very Merry Christmas, and only good days and special times in the New Year.

Be sure to keep up with us on social media, follow us on Twitter & Instagram (@campgooddays), and like us on Facebook! Tune in to our radio show, Good Days and Special Times, which airs the first Thursday of every month at 6:30 PM on WYSL 92.1 FM / 1040 AM.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Courage Classic & November at CGD

November has flown by, here at Camp Good Days. What a special month it was… We kicked off November with Courage Classic II. Camp Good Days has been fortunate to partner with two of the most prestigious NCAA Hockey teams in the country, Cornell University and Colgate University.


Courage Classic has proven to be an extremely special opportunity for the campers at Camp Good Days. Courage Classic is loosely based on The Courage Bowl, a tradition we started here in Rochester 11 years ago. We started Courage Bowl to give children who couldn’t participate in sports at the collegiate athletics due to their cancer or sickle cell anemia, the chance to be a part of a college football team. Courage Classic has been a tremendous event two years in a row, and I couldn’t be happier with the relationships our campers have been able to forge with the players and coaches on both teams.



The week kicked off with our campers each attending a practice with their respective teams, getting tours of the locker room, being on the ice and shooting on goalies, and finished with a pizza party. Each of our Honorary Captains were presented signed jerseys from both teams, a keepsake they’ll be able to wear for a long time.

On game-day, Lynah Rink was packed to capacity with over 4,200 fans and our kids had the chance to be a part of the ceremonial puck drop prior to the game. The kids were met at the tunnel by each team’s captains, skated to center ice, and, after the puck drop, each team skated over to high five our Honorary Captains.


This will be an experience for those that have participated will never forget. For me, the lasting memory I will have is the picture of Coach Shafer, of Cornell University, with Brody, one of our Honorary Captains, after the game. Brody and his family will have this memory forever. With all the negativity that is going on in the world, those at Lynah Rink had a chance to see the human spirit soar. Thank you to both Cornell and Colgate Hockey Teams.


After Courage Classic, I traveled to Turning Stone Resort where I was honored to be the Keynote Speaker at Campgrounds Owners of New York’s (CONY) Annual Conference.

CONY has been a true friend to Camp Good Days since 2012. There are almost 300 CONY Campgrounds throughout the state. I was pleased to have the opportunity to personally say thank you to all the campground owners for their continued support. Since kicking off their efforts to raise money for Camp Good Days, our friends at CONY have generated nearly $250,000.


What inspires me most about the CONY owners is their work ethic. They are so driven and have truly dedicated themselves to raising funds and awareness for Camp Good Days. I am so grateful for their friendship. This year alone, CONY was able to raise $91,000 for CGD. This is a great gift to all of our children and families right before the Holiday Season.

I want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, and will write again before the Holidays.

Monday, November 16, 2015

C.O.C.A. Conference

As the Chairman & Founder of Camp Good Days, I have had the privilege of meeting some amazing individuals and speaking at various different conventions. Last weekend, I spoke to an audience I felt compelled to write about. For the first time in far too long, I reconnected with Children’s Oncology Camping Association (C.O.C.A.) at their International Conference that took place in Niagara Falls, Ontario. With the company of a few members of our staff, we spent a few days interacting and networking with other camps from around the world.


C.O.C.A. is an organization that is very near and dear to my heart. In 1982, C.O.C.A., Children's Oncology Camps of America was founded by a dozen pioneer oncology camps. The personnel from these twelve camps found the lives of children with cancer were immeasurably enhanced by camping. Noting their similar experiences, these visionary souls believed a forum should be created to share their ideas and experiences. That forum known as C.O.C.A. currently consists of over 65 member camps from within the United States.

One of my most fond memories of C.O.C.A. was when we hosted the Annual C.O.C.A.-I Conference in Rochester, NY in November of 1990. Much like when we hosted in 1990, this conference reminded me of why I had helped to start C.O.C.A. It was great to reconnect with some old friends, and share information and stories. It was truly a nice opportunity to see how much C.O.C.A. has grown for children and families battling cancer.

Lastly, it was an honor to speak to the audience about Cancer Mission 2020, an initiative of Camp Good Days to make cancer a chronic illness by 2020, where one can still maintain a decent quality of life. The main point of emphasis that I touched on was the importance of clinical trials. Clinical trials are where the answers to cancer are going to come from.


As we approach the Holidays and are gearing up to send Holiday cards, we’d ask that you make Cancer Mission 2020 a part of your traditions this year. Have your family sign the petition, share it with your friends on Facebook. What better gift could you give than helping us find the answers to cancer?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fall Recap

Where does the time go? I feel like it was just yesterday that we were putting the kids on the bus and sending them off to camp in July and here we are, more than halfway through October.

My last blog brought us from June to the beginning of September… September is always a particularly busy month at Camp Good Days. We usually try and cram a lot into September because the weather is usually still beautiful, and the fall in the Finger Lakes provides some of the best scenery in the country.


 On September 19th, we were blessed with a beautiful day for our annual Tour de Teddi. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the ride this year, but I heard that the event was a fantastic time. I, as you may know, am the Kicking Coach for St. John Fisher College’s Football Team, and we had a game that day. I heard from numerous people that by all accounts the people who attended and participated had a great time. Tour de Teddi’s fundraising efforts will help us to continue to be able to provide our programs and services free of charge for the participants.


I’d like to extend a special thanks to our Honorary Chair Dino Kay, of Fickle 93.3. We’re so thrilled he was able to join us and bike in this event.

On Saturday, September 26, 2015, Courage Bowl XI was played.  The Courage Bowl is the annual football game featuring the St. John Fisher College Cardinals and The College at Brockport Golden Eagles. The Courage Bowl is the annual to benefit the children and families at Camp Good Days.


We went into this game wanting to give the Honorary Coaches, which included Sam Gigliotta, Brody Hines, and Noah Martin for the Cardinals; and Padraig Crowley, Matthew Kubisty, and Simon Fendinger for the Golden Eagles; and the Honorary Cheerleaders, which included Ciara Griffin and KorieMae Spirito for the Cardinals; and Aaliyah Akins and Sara Bischoping for the Golden Eagles; a special experience and the opportunity to create some memories that they will carry with them for a long time.  We also wanted to give the players from both teams the chance to spend some time with these amazing campers.

Looking back, we could not have scripted it any better if we tried! The weather was beautiful and both teams showed our campers a great time. Thousands of fans filled Growney Stadium on the St. John Fisher College campus.  It was a perfect day for football, and the game was arguably the best Courage Bowl of all time. The fans who attended Courage Bowl XI were able to see a thrilling double overtime victory for the Cardinals, with a final score of 42-41. The day was phenomenal for Camp Good Days’ campers, and truly lived up to the billing, “More Than Just A Game.”

This year’s Courage Bowl, we focused on childhood cancer awareness, and made all of the shirts sold at the game be a shade of gold. We also had a gold balloon launch prior to kickoff to remember the many children who are battling cancer worldwide.

If you want to see just how much fun everyone had at Courage Bowl XI, check out the photo album on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CampGoodDays79.

We finished off our camping seasons with two programs: our growing Women’s Oncology Program and the relatively new Men’s Prostate Cancer Retreat. Both programs have proven to be extremely useful programs, and we’re excited to be able to continue these programs.

I’d like to thank former Central New York Director of Camp Good Days, Claire McKenney, who currently runs Paint Nite Syracuse, for donating her time and leading the women in a painting demonstration.

I’d also like to thank Dr. Jean Joseph, Dr. Louis Eichel, and Dr. Jeffrey Albaugh for attending the Men’s Prostate Cancer Retreat and facilitating discussion for the participants.

We are so thrilled to share that through the overwhelming generosity of Jay and Jay Jay Vanderstyne, Vanderstyne Toyota, and Toyota Motors, we have been given the opportunity to host the Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle once again!  With the donation from Vanderstyne of a 2016 LE Plus Corolla, one hundred percent of all ticket sales will benefit the children and families at Camp Good Days.  The Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle began on September 26, 2015 and the drawing will take place on Saturday, January 30, 2016 at the Teddi Dance for Love at St. John Fisher College.  The 2016 LE Plus Corolla features power windows, power locks, 16-inch Alloy Wheels, 6.1” Touch Screen / Bluetooth/USB/AUX/CD with Backup Camera, and Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof.  The Toyota Corolla offers the ideal blend of comfort, value and safety.  Tickets for the Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle are $20.00 each, or 3 tickets for $50.00 and may be purchased by contacting Camp Good Days at 585-624-5555 or 800-785-2135 or online at www.campgooddays.org.  Tickets may be purchased using cash, check, or credit card.  The prize winner must be at least 18 years of age.


Plans are now underway for the Annual Joe Benet Memorial Kazoo Fest.  I am so excited that the JC Penney stores at Eastview Mall, Marketplace Mall, and Greece Ridge Center Mall have all agreed to partner with us again this year in the Rochester area to have the Kazoo Fest set-up at the mall entrances to their stores.  We are also excited to have Kazoo Fest locations at Destiny USA in Syracuse, the Walden-Galleria Mall in Buffalo, and at the Old Navy at The Shops at Ithaca in Ithaca.  The Kazoo Fest will take place from Friday, November 27, 2015 through Wednesday, December 23, 2015 and is a wonderful opportunity for us to not only generate some much needed funds to help make our programs possible, but provides us with the venue in which to reach many people and share all that we do with them.  We are in need of HUNDREDS OF VOLUNTEERS to help make the Kazoo Fest a great success.  No previous experience is needed and volunteers can select their preferred location, date(s), and times.  All of the Kazoo Fest Volunteer Information and Sign-Up can be found on our website, www.campgooddays.org, or by contacting your local Camp Good Days’ Office (Headquarters / Rochester: 585-624-5555 / 800-785-2135; Buffalo: 716-206-0709; Syracuse: 315-434-9477; Ithaca: 607-266-9180).

Thank you to all of our supporters who continue on this journey with me. Camp Good Days has always been a memorial to my daughter, Teddi, and I cannot thank you enough for helping me to allow this dream to become my reality.