Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Losing Another Friend to Cancer in our Community

Once again this past weekend, Camp Good Days and the Rochester community lost a very special friend much too early.  I first met Supreme Court Justice, Elma Bellini, many years ago following the death of her father to cancer while she worked in the Public Defender’s office of Monroe County.  She wanted to get involved with Camp Good Days to help the children and families we serve.  She served as a volunteer at our summer camping programs when we held the camps on Keuka Lake, and she also participated in a number of year-round activities. 

Elma eventually ran for County Court, and she was a welcome addition to the judiciary.  She truly cared about people, and while serving as a County Court Judge, she was assigned to handle the domestic violence cases.  After Elma became a judge and was able to adopt her two children, she didn’t have the time to volunteer at camp anymore.  Our paths would cross intermittently, but whenever we saw each other, it was like we had seen each other the day before. 

One day during one of our visits, she asked if our summer calendar was filled.  She told me how she wanted the children who were innocent victims of domestic violence to be able to experience the magic of camp, and she wondered if I would be willing to host a program down at our facility for them.  I told her that we would find a way to make this happen for them; we just needed volunteers and campers to make the program run smoothly.  The program was a success, and for those of us who were involved, it was the highlight of the summer.  That program is very special to me, and the Camp Good Days staff, and so I have decided to rename the program to “Elma’s Camp” in memory of her and her wonderful work.

Following that summer, Elma became a Supreme Court Justice, and we lost touch.  Elma accomplished many things in her life, but like so many others, her life was cut short by the insidious disease we call cancer.

Please bear with me as I get on my soapbox.  You can’t pick up the newspaper or watch television without hearing our leaders talk about all topics under the sun except for what we are going to do to once and for all, end the disease that touches all of us directly or indirectly.  This disease takes 11,000 Americans every week; many before their time.  That is like one of the Twin Towers falling every day, 365 days a year.  It takes many parents away from their children, and spouses away from each other.  It is the leading cause of death in the United States for people 85 years old and younger, and it is the leading cause of death in the world.  In 2018, I find it very sad that many parents have to go through the terrifying ordeal of burying their child before them, as I had to do, almost 40 years ago.

The only way that we are going to find the answers to this horrible disease is if we have a coordinated effort.  It has to come from our leadership in Washington, and this is only going to happen when we, as citizens, truly live up to our responsibility of letting our elected officials know that we need to stop messing around with this disease.  I have never been more confident than I am now that we possess that ability.  If our government would stop spending and wasting money on inconsequential things that have little importance, and focus that money on finding the answers to cancer, we could find a way to end this disease once and for all.  There are many intelligent people who have dedicated their lives to finding the answers to cancer, but they need more funding, greater patient participation in clinical trials, because that is where the answers are going to come from, and we need the government to stand behind them.

We have lost way too many wonderful people like Elma way before their time from this horrible disease.  Everyone needs to stand up and be counted, so that we can see if we can truly make America great again by finding the answers to cancer.      

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