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. 

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.