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,

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  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,, 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.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Summer Recap

I know it has been quite awhile since my last post and I apologize for the delay, but to say that this summer and fall have been busy is putting it mildly.

I promised myself at the beginning of the summer that I would try to spend more time at our Recreational Facility during our programs. I am glad to say I was able to spend two or three days at every program this summer, and a full week during our Doing A World of Good program. I wish that everyone had time to spend at Camp Good Days, as it is truly a magical and spiritual place.  It is how the world should be – everyone is accepted for who they are -  it doesn’t matter if you are skinny or overweight, short or tall, a girl or a boy, if you have hair or not, if you have a prosthesis or not. Everyone gets three meals a day, plus snacks, and a roof over their head.  And it all happens in a place as far away from the sterile environment of the hospital, on the shores of beautiful Keuka Lake. Where else can children who have been dealing with cancer, enduring the most potent treatment available, and spending way too much time in the hospital, get the chance to get back some of their childhood that their illness has stolen from them?  And they get to do it with the only ones in the world who can truly understand what they are going through – other children dealing with cancer. 

To give you just a glimpse of what it is like to spend a week at Camp Good Days, imagine waking up and fishing from a boat; jumping in Keuka Lake as part of Polar Bear Swim; playing gaga dodgeball; getting pictures taken in our new Ranger station; playing in the new bubble pit; and possibly having the Rochester Rhinos professional soccer team visit, the Colgate Women’s Basketball Team, the St. John Fisher College or The College at Brockport Football teams, Bat McGrath, or even a magician! Not only were many good days and special times had by all of our campers this summer, but two new countries experienced the magic of Camp Good Days, as Spain and Antigua attended this summer’s session of Doing A World of Good.

There is no other place that the campers from Camp Good Days will get that same experience, and we provide all of these programs free of charge for the participants, which is only possible because of the generous support from so many individuals, businesses, and organizations, the success of special fundraising events and activities, and the dedicated summer staff, volunteers and friends who give so much of their time and their love to help make these programs possible.

 It is hard to believe that our 36th year has come to an end, and while the world is certainly a much different place than it was when we started on this adventure, it is nice to know that Camp Good Days is still driven by volunteers who do so much to create the best experience possible for the campers, and willingly take on the awesome responsibility of sending the campers home at the end of their session in the same condition in which they arrived.

We ended camp with three particularly successful programs with our Leadership Program, for children transitioning in the Rochester City School District from elementary school to middle school; the Brain Tumor Family Retreat, for families that have a member with a malignant brain tumor; and, with the help of the Veteran's Outreach Center, the Inaugural Veteran’s Family Retreat, for families that have a member serving the United States’ military. We are excited to continuously be expanding our programming at Camp Good Days, and are already busy planning our 37th summer. 

That’s all I have… For now! In my next blog, I will recap Tour de Teddi, Courage Bowl XI, and our Project Exile Report to the Community Luncheon. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June Recap

We’re into crunch-time at Camp Good Days, with summer programs just around the corner, we’re wrapping up some special events before we shift into camp mode.

At the beginning of June, we held our 32nd Annual Tournament of Love, at the prestigious Monroe Golf Club. After a soggy start, it turned out to be a beautiful day of golf, fun, and laughter. We were lucky enough to be joined by former Camp Good Days Board Member, Bill Polian, who is a current NFL Analyst on ESPN and a former General Manager of the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. During his time as an NFL General Manager, Bill possessed a keen eye for talent, and he was successful everywhere he went. I was honored to present Bill with a Teddi Award for his time on the Camp Good Days Board during the 1990s.

I was also happy to have former Democrat & Chronicle reporter and current host of The Radio Press Box, Scott Pitoniak host a question and answer session with Bill. It was great seeing Bill and Scott converse about the 1990s, and his dilemma of choosing Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf in the 1998 NFL Entry Draft.

I am also incredibly thankful to Jeff and Carolyn Gerstner, for their role as the Honorary Chairs of the Tournament of Love. With their help, we focused on melanoma awareness. We partnered with The Rochester Melanoma Action Group to provide information on how to protect yourself from the sun, as well as educating the golfers about melanoma.

One our our campers, Haley Smith, who currently attends Teddi’s Team, gave a speech about what Camp Good Days has meant to her, and she stole the show. Haley said she was looking forward to making memories this summer at Camp Good Days, and we can’t wait to see her at Camp.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of speaking to over seventy new volunteers who will be heading to our Recreational Facility this summer and volunteering on a program. It’s always so heartwarming to see the faces of so many ambitious and excited individuals who are so selflessly dedicating a week (sometimes even more) of their summers to Camp Good Days.

After I addressed the volunteers, Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley spoke to the volunteers about the importance of what they are contributing to Camp Good Days mission. Her message was clear, and I am grateful she took the time to speak to our new volunteers.

Later that day, I had the privilege of being a guest at the 14th Annual Camp Good Days Black Tie Gala. Our WNY Regional Director, Lisa, as well as the rest of her office-mates Shaylee, Jenn and Marci pulled out all the stops to hold an incredible event. The Gala was Michael Jackson themed, and everything from the set design, the auction items, to the speakers was unbelievable. There was even a special performance from the Michael Jackson band, “Who’s Bad.”

We are very blessed that Rob Lederman from 97 Rock was, again, our emcee for the evening, and he keeps the audience laughing the whole night. We have a great base of friends in Buffalo, all of which it was great to see, from Dave & Mary Pietrowski, to Lindy Ruff, Dan Bylsma, Brian & Leilon Duff, to Mark & Tricia Rosenthal. Camp Good Days is fortunate to have such a vast group of supporters in Buffalo, and I thank all the people who were involved with the event. I’d also like to thank Rob & Kristi Moore, and Moore for Kids, for their $50,000 donation at the event.

The highlight of the night was listening to the courageous presentation of Sue Underwood, who has been touched by cancer in more ways that anyone should. Her daughter, Kayla, was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. Luckily, Kayla’s treatment plan went well, and she is now attending college. Shortly after Kayla’s diagnosis, Sue was diagnosed with cancer. She said how much Camp Good Days’ Women’s Oncology Program helped her cope with her diagnosis. Lastly, her step-son, Jordan, just passed away in January after a long battle against a brain tumor. The pictures that were shown of Jordan while she was speaking were truly moving, and she connected with the audience in a great way. Jordan was a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan, and with the help of our Western New York office, he was able to meet Patrick Kane after attending a game when the Blackhawks played the Sabres in Buffalo.

It takes bravery to stand up in front of a crowd and share a journey, especially one of Sue’s magnitude, with complete strangers. Sue exemplified what Camp Good Days is all about, and I was so happy that she was there sharing her story with us.

As summer begins, I will try to keep this blog updated. We have a lot of children slated to come to Camp Good Days this summer, and we’re looking forward to making our 36th Anniversary summer our best one yet. This summer, campers from three new countries will experience the magic of Camp Good Days, bringing our total to 32 different countries. We're eagerly awaiting our new campers from France, Spain and Antigua!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Project T.I.P.S. - Troup Street Park

On Thursday, May 28th, we held our first Project T.I.P.S. of 2015 at Troup Street Park.  Project T.I.P.S. stands for Trust, Information, Programs and Services, and is an effort to rebuild and foster trust between city residents and the local law enforcement. Project T.I.P.S. encourages  the sharing of information of residents with law enforcement.

Groups, including two law enforcement officials and two volunteers, visit residents within the neighborhood to create conversations about quality of life issues, as well as to obtain information about the crime and violence that has plagued the neighborhood, in an anonymous format for residents.  The groups also provide residents with information and contacts they can use regarding services that range from health care issues (cancer, diabetes, heart disease) to reporting information for things such as crime, vandalism, and fire.

Project T.I.P.S. continues with a community cookout and get together, where residents can come and obtain more information from service providers and law enforcement agencies, as well as have some food and beverages, and have the opportunity to visit with their neighbors that they know and meet some neighbors they may not know. 

The Inaugural Project T.I.P.S. was held in August 2008 in the Dewey and Driving Park community. Since its inception, Project T.I.P.S. has quickly evolved into a community-wide effort with support and participation from the Partners Against Violence Everywhere (PAVE) Initiative, Project Exile Advisory Board, Rochester Police Department, Rochester Fire Department, City of Rochester Recreation Department, New York State Police, New York State Parole, United States Border Patrol, Pathways to Peace, Monroe County Probation, Monroe County Sheriff’s Department,  Irondequoit Police Department, Monroe County Department of Human Services, Humane Society at Lollypop Farm, Rise Up Rochester, and numerous other law enforcement and community agencies.

This year, we have been blessed with the presence of Amy Pierson on the Project T.I.P.S. committee. Amy attended the first Project T.I.P.S. at Troup Street Park, and I cannot thank her enough for her involvement this year. Amy has used the loss of her husband, Daryl, as a platform to prevent others from having to undergo what she has gone through.

After going on the community surveys, Amy helped out with a bike raffle. Children had the opportunity to win a bicycle and a helmet from R-Community Bikes. In order to enter, they had to fill out a form saying they would never carry an illegal gun, and a parent or guardian had to sign off on it.

I’m so proud of Amy, and cannot wait to see her involvement grow with Project T.I.P.S. in the future.
All of the food was, again, generously provided by TOPS Markets, and we couldn’t do what we do without them. I would also like to thank the Rochester Rhinos, who brought one of their players and Rex, their mascot, to our event.

Our next Project T.I.P.S. will take place on Thursday, June 25th. We will revisit a location on the corner of Grand Avenue and Chamberlain Street, where we experienced one of our largest T.I.P.S. ever. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Proud to Live in Rochester

The past month has provided yet another reason why I am proud to call Rochester and Monroe County my home. The effort of the public servants in our area gave me the reason to post this blog today.

First, we celebrated the life of a public servant who exemplified what public service was all about, in saying goodbye to former Sheriff Andrew Meloni, who lost his battle to cancer. Sheriff Meloni gave forty-one years of his life to the Monroe County Sheriff Department, with the last twenty-one years as the highest law enforcement officer in Monroe County, as Sheriff. He led the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department to be one of the first to be accredited statewide and nationally. He was constantly driven by maintaining the highest of professional standards.

Sheriff Meloni treated people with respect, and I never saw him lose his temper. He was a gentleman and a true law enforcement professional in every sense of the word. I am sad to see him pass on, but know he left a legacy that will remain for years to come, and it showed with the amount of people who paid their respects to him at his funeral services.

We also saw another public servant handle herself with class, grace, and hard-work, in District Attorney Sandra Doorley. Anyone who is familiar with prosecuting a case like the one against Thomas Johnson III and the murder of Daryl Pierson knows that proving intent is one of the most difficult things to do. Yet, in a very good trial that never got unruly, she conducted herself as a true professional as she prosecuted Thomas Johnson III.

The result of her work ethic and the homework she did on the case, resulted in the jury doing its job, as they chose to find Johnson III guilty of Felony Aggravated Murder. Thanks to District Attorney Doorley and the jury, Johnson III will be sentenced without the chance at parole and the chance to cause harm to any of the citizens in Rochester.

I know that Sheriff Meloni has left his mark on the Monroe County. I’m also proud of District Attorney Doorley.  The verdict of guilty in the Thomas Johnson III case allows us to remember Officer Daryl Pierson as the true hero that he was, and hopefully gave his family some peace of mind.