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. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wine Season!

We are into crunch time here at Camp Good Days, as we are not only in the process of recruiting summer staff, campers, and volunteers for the summer, as well as preparing the Recreational Facility for all of the summer camping programs, but we also have one of our successful special fundraising events coming up.

Over the past 15 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 15th Annual Wine Auction Dinner will take place on Saturday, May 2, 2015 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 Senator Rich Funke will be our Master of Ceremonies.

The 15th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, which was held March 21 & 22, 2015, was a resounding success. More than 3700 wines were entered into the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. These entries came from 924 wineries, including 125 New York State wineries, from 27 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, moved it or made the bourbon s’mores, you contributed to another fantastic year at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

It was so nice to see the huge amount of volunteers we had return this year for the weekend. We were so pleased with their commitment to Camp Good Days. We were thrilled to have many of them join us at the Judges Dinner on Saturday night at Max’s Eastman Place.

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 only 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.

It’s hard to believe that Peter Parts, a member of our Board of Directors, approached me with the idea of holding a wine competition fifteen years ago. Who would have thought it would grow into what it has today? We could not do it without him, or the entire FLIWC Committee.

We were also pleased to have a new title sponsor come aboard this year, as Waterloo Container became the Gold Medal Sponsor. With their help, some of the volunteers that worked both days were able to enjoy the Judges Dinner at a no cost. We were thrilled to have them come aboard, and hope they’ll continue their support for years to come.

We wrapped up the weekend stopping at a number of participating wineries in the Finger Lakes, and with a dinner at the Genesee Brew House. I personally loved the Bavarian pretzels and mustard at the Brew House, which is truly a treasure to the City of Rochester.

In just one month, we will be auctioning off the medal winning wines at the Camp Good Days Wine Auction Dinner. 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 or

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 wines 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 our community.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

33rd Annual Dance for Love

For the 33rd year in a row, the students at St. John Fisher College danced for 24 hours to honor my daughter, Teddi. The Teddi Dance for Love began back in 1982 when my good friend and professor at St. John Fisher, Dr. Lou Buttino, and some of his students decided they wanted to help Camp Good Days. The first year, they had just a few dozen dancers and raised just a few thousand dollars.

Since then, the dance has grown and multiplied immensely.  The dance has become a very special annual tradition for not only everyone here at Camp Good Days, but also for the students at St. John Fisher College and the Rochester community. This year, the Teddi Dance for Love Committee raised $51,982.03 for the children and families of Camp Good Days, a remarkable amount, and I couldn't be more proud of them! 

It has been said that the two greatest gifts that we, as human beings, can give to one another are our time and our love. Over 24 hours last weekend, each and every one of the participants gave so much of both, and their energy and spirit will help to provide some good days and special times to some very special children and families who need it the most.

This year was last Teddi Dance for Love for Dr. Bain, and his wife Meg, as President and "First Lady" of St. John Fisher College. Dr. Bain was there from the start of the Dance for Love, and has been a crucial part of every dance since. I cannot thank the Bain's for all they have done for Camp Good Days.

The money raised at the Teddi Dance helps to fund the Teddi Project at Camp Good Days which provides a very special trip to Florida each year for some of our campers battling cancer where they get to experience firsthand the magic of Disney Land, Universal Studios, and St. Pete’s Beach. Over the last 33 years, the dance has raised more than $1,000,000 to support the Teddi Project!

This year, the students chose to dedicate the dance to Camp Good Days’ camper, Ashley Nagel. Ashley lost her battle in September 2013 at just four years old. I know that Ashley was smiling down on of the Dance for Love participants as they danced the night away.

Thank you to the Dance for Love Committee who has, for all these years, kept her memory and spirit alive. As Teddi’s father, what greater gift could I receive?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015 Starts With a Bang

Where does the time go? Can you believe we’re already into February, and that 2015 is already one-month-old? Camp Good Days has had one of the busiest and most memorable January’s that we’ve ever had.  

First and foremost, Camp Good Days’ Annual Fun Fest Trip took place from January 29th to February 3rd. On Thursday, January 29th 2015, a group of approximately 45 campers and volunteers departed from the Greater Rochester International Airport and embarked on the Annual Florida Fun Fest Trip.  We started in Orlando on Thursday afternoon, checking into the Seralago Suites. We’re so thankful for our friend, Barbara Rodriguez, for going out of her way to ensure our stay was everything we could have hoped for.

On Friday morning, we met up with John and Linda Mongoven, and they hosted us for brunch at Applebee’s. After brunch we headed to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is always one of the kids’ favorite stops on the Florida trip, and it’s a time for the children to let go and be kids.

Saturday, we brought the campers to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Many thanks go out to Vanessa Campbell, a friend of ours who works at Universal, who always goes above and beyond in making sure our visit goes smoothly and that the kids have the time of their life.

We had a great time in Orlando, and on Sunday, the group headed to St. Pete’s Beach, where we stayed at the beautiful TradeWinds Resort.

On Sunday night, everyone was the special guests of good friends, Steve and Patty DiGennaro and their neighbors.  Steve and Patty, along with their friends, put on an amazing Super Bowl cookout dinner at their home and the campers had the chance to swim in the pool, fish off the dock, play games, and watch the game. Once again this year, Steve and Patty and their friends went above and beyond in welcoming the campers and volunteers and everyone had a great evening. It was great to see and have former Buffalo Bills Place Kicker, Steve Christie, and his wife, Kelly, at our Super Bowl party. Many of our campers enjoyed having a former Super Bowl participant at the party.

On Monday, the General Manager of the International House of Pancakes treated the campers to brunch. We were also fortunate enough to have an anonymous donor pay for the remainder of the volunteers and staff members. I cannot tell you the joy that the breakfast at IHOP brought to me. The rest of the day was spent relaxing at the beach at the TradeWinds, where everyone had the chance to take part in all they have to offer; including swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, swimming in the pool, playing miniature golf, collecting sea-shells, going on the giant, inflatable water slide and more.  

The Camp Good Days’ Florida Trip has taken place since 1985 and was originated when Rochester businessman, Wayne Meisenzahl, who was completing his own treatment for cancer, wanted to give children touched by cancer the opportunity to experience firsthand, the magic of Central Florida.  The Annual Florida Trip has continued because of the generosity of Ms. Germaine K. Hess, one of Meisenzahl’s clients, who left a bequest to Camp Good Days, through an estate, specifically to ensure that Camp Good Days will be able to continue providing the Annual Florida Trip.  In addition, the trip is made possible through the Teddi Project at Camp Good Days.  The Teddi Project is supported through the annual Dance for Love, a 24-hour dance marathon at St. John Fisher College.  The 33rd Annual Dance for Love will take place on February 20-21, 2015.  The trip is also supported by the Gary Amendola Fun Fund, which was established in memory of Gary Amendola, who was a good friend, supporter and member of the Camp Good Days’ Board of Directors and lost his own battle with cancer.  The Gary Amendola Fun Fund provides the means for Camp Good Days to host special outings, activities and events throughout the year.

If you want to see just how much fun everyone had on the trip, check out the photo album on our Facebook page,

All Things Not Florida

I, admittedly, am not a hockey guy. I have never truly gotten into the sport, but I must say, our campers were treated to a great month of hockey. It all started at the Buffalo Sabres game on January 2nd. We brought ten campers from Rochester to the game in Buffalo, where our campers took in the game from a suite at center ice. Although the result was not what our campers had hoped for (a 2-0 loss to Florida), they had a great time being transported to the game from our Mendon office via party bus, and taking in the game from some of the best seats in the First Niagara Center. All of the transportation was made possible from the Sugarman Family Fund.

On January 23rd, our campers were the guests of Brian and Leilon Duff at a Rochester Americans game. Brian is a broadcaster for the Buffalo Sabres, and during the NHL All-Star break, he and his family traveled down the Thruway and spent the night in a suite with our campers. The suite was great, and our campers enjoyed the all-you-can-eat pizza, chicken wings, and snacks that were provided. They were also visited by some Amerks players who were dealing with injuries, and got some autographs. We feel so fortunate to have the support of the Duff’s, and look forward to inducting them into our Ring of Honor this month at our Annual Night of Gratitude.

In 2014, Marcie, our Southern Tier Office Director, approached me with the idea of having a “Courage Bowl” styled hockey game between Cornell University and Colgate University. After a few meetings with our staff, the Inaugural Courage Classic was born. On January 31, 2015, six of our campers partook in the Inaugural Courage Classic, all of whom had been touched by cancer, and had the experience of a lifetime. Each team, Cornell and Colgate, were given three Honorary Coaches, who would be a part of the team on game-day. The Honorary Coaches attended a practice with the team prior to the game, were given signed authentic game jerseys from the team, and participated in a pregame ceremonial puck-drop. Over 4,200 people attended the Inaugural Courage Classic, all of which gave a standing ovation to our campers when they were introduced and took the ice.

 Other Events:

The Third Annual Takedown Cancer Wrestling Duals took on new meaning this year, as each wrestling team had Honorary Coaches who attend Camp Good Days’ programming. Rush-Henrietta, Webster Thomas, Penfield, and Fairport each had one of our campers attend a practice the week of the duals and gave the campers authentic wrestling gear. On the day of the duals, the campers were on the bench with the team, rooting on their respective squads. The wrestling community was able to raise over $4,000 for Camp Good Days, and we are so thankful for their support over the past three years.

The Fayetteville-Manlius Dance Marathon is off and running, and this year, one of our own campers, Camdyn, spoke at the assemblies, which officially kicked off the fundraising. She and James, along with a few others, spoke about Camp Good Days, and conveyed the importance of the FM Dance Marathon to CGD. This will be the 25th year that FM has raised money for Camp Good Days, and we cannot thank them enough for their hard work over the past 25 years! 

On January 24th, our Buffalo campers attended “Disney on Ice” at the First Niagara Center. Many of the campers dressed up in their crowns and watched some of their favorite Disney characters skate to their favorite songs.

Lastly, the 11th Annual Cycle For Hope took place at Rochester area gyms. This fundraiser has come a long way since its inception in 2004. Ten gyms participated, and hundreds of people cycled for Camp Good Days, as well as Golisano Children’s Hospital. We’re anticipating the event raise as much, if not more than the $8,000 that it raised for Camp Good Days last year.

We’re looking forward to a busy February as well. The Annual Dance For Love is taking place on February 20th and 21st, we’re bringing the campers to Glacier Ridge on February 17th, and the Annual Night of Gratitude is on February 27th. I’ll be writing you frequently this month, and providing updates along the way! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

In Memory of Ray

It is with a heavy heart and much sadness, yet wonderful memories that I write this post today.  Camp Good Days, and I personally, have lost a friend and colleague, and someone who was an integral part of making this organization what it is today, with the recent passing of Ray Cordello.

When I was starting Camp Good Days, I was just a Dad, looking for a way to deal with what was going on in my family, and looking for a way in which to give my daughter, Teddi, the opportunity to realize that she was not the only child dealing with cancer.  In those very early days of Camp Good Days, Ray, who worked for the County of Monroe for many years, served as our volunteer Treasurer.  Ray was not a politician, but working in a political environment, and as will happen, the day came when the administration and the party in power changed.  Ray was one of the last employees of the former Lucien Morin Administration in Monroe County, but did eventually lose his job.  At the time, he asked what he could do to help Camp Good Days, as he had extra time and was in the midst of searching for the next step in his career.  With a wife and two children, he wanted to stay in the community.  Camp Good Days was operating on Canandaigua Lake, renting a facility then, where he came and did whatever was needed that summer – running errands, helping with anything that was asked of him. 

As fate would have it, we at Camp Good Days were in the process of looking for someone to come aboard and handle the financial and accounting functions that fall.  One night, I met Ray and our mutual friend, Fran Russo, for dinner, when Ray shared with me the opportunities he was exploring, which were similar to what we were searching for, it was the perfect fit for everyone.  I said to Ray, there was no way we could afford to pay him what he had been making but, why not work for an organization he believed in and had dedicated so many volunteer hours to, and if something came along later, I would not stand in his way.  I would be happy for him and we would be no worse off than we were, in searching for someone to fill that position.  So, Ray came to work for Camp Good Days, an organization that he had spent so many volunteer hours helping to make a reality. 

I have always been the one who doesn’t sleep and who comes up with some crazy ideas and plans, and it was always Ray, along with our dedicated staff, that made those ideas and plans come to fruition.  Ray was always in the background, happy to just make what needed to happen.  I never had to worry about the finances, the accounting, the audits that we are required to go through every year, the numerous filings and paperwork that needed to be completed to maintain our status as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. 

None of us is getting any younger and as Ray got older, it came to be time for a change and to begin to prepare someone to take over Ray’s responsibilities.  I was happy that Ray could help to train his successor, especially because it was a challenging time in that we not only had to find someone to take on those responsibilities but also had to find a new audit company, when the company we had been using for so many years was no longer able to be our auditors. 

Ray was as honest as the day is long.  He was a great husband, father, and grandfather.  He was dedicated to his church and his Webster community.  He believed so thoroughly in the mission of Camp Good Days and was dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and families dealing with cancer.  He was always willing to make it happen – no matter how crazy or impossible it seemed.  He was there.  Always there to make sure that Camp Good Days was in the best financial shape possible and that we, as an organization, would never falter, despite many challenges and difficult economic times.  He was always there, to lend an ear – for advice, for guidance, or to just let you vent.  He was stubborn for sure, but in most instances, that stubbornness proved to be correct.  He was a cornerstone in the building of Camp Good Days and in making it what it is today, and for that I will forever be grateful.

It is too hard to actually believe that he is gone.  There are too many memories and stories to share in this forum, but for those of us who had Ray in our lives, we now have him in our hearts, along with all of those memories and stories.  He will be missed more than he would have ever thought possible, by so many whose lives he touched, in one way or another.  For those of us who were fortunate enough to have known him, been friends with him, and worked with him, we will forever be better people for his strong personality, his quiet dedication, and his support.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

As you can imagine, things have been very hectic and busy, here at Camp Good Days, and the time just goes by so quickly. We've just wrapped up our Annual Kazoo Fest, and our 35th year. 

This special time of year provides us with the opportunity to be thankful for our many blessings.  Camp Good Days has so many special angels, who in small ways and large ways, help us to continue fulfilling our mission and who have helped me to keep my daughter Teddi’s memory and legacy going, and for that I am forever grateful. 

Throughout the past few weeks, I have done a lot of reflecting on our 35th Anniversary summer. It’s safe to say our 35th Anniversary did not go according to plan. We had spent much of the 2013-2014 winter planning various events to commemorate this milestone year, and were excited to celebrate our 35th Anniversary.

As I’ve said many times, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. May flooding at our Keuka Lake Recreational Facility put our 2014 schedule in jeopardy. With consecutive floods that devastated our camp, we were unsure that we would be able to hold any sort of activity at our facility all summer. Over $500,000 worth of damage ravaged our property, and we are still busy making repairs.

It’s crazy to think that out of something so terrible, came so much good for Camp Good Days. The amount of people who reached out and volunteered their time and services was truly heartwarming. The overwhelming amount of people who donated money to help us make repairs on our facility was incredible. Over 700 people volunteered and helped us pick up the pieces of Camp during the first week after the flooding. We had volunteers staffing the phones in our office, as well as at our Recreational Facility, and received thousands of calls of people asking how they could help.

There are numerous volunteers who went far out of their way to come to our aid, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many special angels, who without them, I’m confident we wouldn’t have gotten Camp ready in time for our 35th Anniversary Summer. The list is far too long to name, but you know who you are, and we could not have gotten camp back up and running without you.

It is also the time that we plan for the coming year and all of the excitement and unknown that goes along with that.  With that in mind, I would like to share with you some of our objectives for 2015 with CANCER MISSION 2020.

There has been a lot going on in regards to CANCER MISSION 2020.  As many of you know, CANCER MISSION 2020 was officially launched on December 2, 2010 and it is hard to believe that four years have gone by already.   We are proud of how far we have come in such a short time and we are excited about the coming year.  CANCER MISSION 2020 is based on a three-prong approach of INFORMATION – CALL TO ACTION – ACCOUNTABILITY. 

In 2015, we will shift into the CALL TO ACTION phase, with the re-introduction of the legislation that was established by Congressman Tom Reed, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, and Congressman Chris Collis into Congress previously. 

This Holiday Season was particularly difficult, and new cancer diagnosis, as well as friends succumbing to cancer, really put a damper on the Holidays. Cancer is a disease that not only prematurely takes your life; it almost humiliates you while doing so.

The recent death of Stuart Scott is a reminder that cancer is an equal opportunity killer. Stuart led an inspirational life, and blazed his own trail in the broadcasting world. Cancer, unfortunately, doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, young or old, black or white, Democrat or Republican. Cancer needs to be put it on the front burner in America, and by supporting CANCER MISSION 2020, you can help us do so.

11,000 people 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.

I ask that, in 2015, you make a true effort to inform your friends and family about CANCER MISSION 2020. It’s a true grassroots movement, and your help can make an impact. CANCER MISSION 2020 will save money in research efforts, as well as time. Research will be required to be reported, even if it has failed.  

Special thanks to all those who have responded to our call for help in obtaining signatures for the CANCER MISSION 2020 Petitions, both online and in person.  Thousands and thousands have signed the petition and we continue that effort, as there is strength in numbers and we need that strength to demonstrate to our leaders that we want cancer to be a top priority.  Please share the CANCER MISSION 2020 Petition with your network – people can sign online or download hard-copy petition sheets at

This New Year, I have made it my resolution to blog more, and keep you all informed as to the progress of Camp Good Days, and CANCER MISSION 2020.

To those who would like to get more involved this New Year, and made a resolution to volunteer, please check out, and be sure to tune into the Camp Good Days Radio Show, which airs the first Thursday of every month at 5:30 PM on 92.1 FM/1040 AM WYSL Radio. 

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.