Thursday, March 11, 2021

Looking Forward to Summer

I hope that this blog finds you well and in good health. We, at Camp Good Days, are continuing to adapt and adjust, and are looking forward to warm weather and the promise of camp.

With the governor's announcement that residential summer camps will be allowed to operate this summer starting in June, we are excited to announce that we are offering Family Camps in July and August! This means that our summer will look a little different than normal. Families will be able to come during a 3-day, 2-night stay to spend time at camp together. Each family will get their own cabin to stay in and all safety precautions will be taken. There will be a limited number of families staying on property at the same time. These programs will be organized similarly to our regular programming, meaning that families who have a child with cancer will be in the same program, families with a parent diagnosed will be in the same program, etc. This way, they will be around others facing similar challenges. A lot of research and planning has gone into making this decision and we are very excited!

We also have two great raffles going on. The Camp Good Days Car Raffle is happening again this year thanks to Vanderstyne Toyota and Toyota USA. And the Foreigner Guitar Raffle is also going on. Thanks to Lou Gramm and his wife Robyn, this guitar is signed by all past and present members of Foreigner. The drawings will both be held on April 15. Please support these great raffles by purchasing tickets or sharing the information to families and friends. You can learn more here.

Lastly, we are excited to announce that the 39th Annual Teddi Dance for Love raised over $120,000 despite the challenges with the pandemic! This is the most they have ever raised! This is the longest-running fundraiser at St. John Fisher College. I want to give special thanks to Emily and Sam, the Chair and Vice Chair of the dance, and President Rooney and Mrs. Rooney for their continued involvement and support. It is thanks to events like these that we can continue providing our programs free of charge.

While this past year has been difficult, we are hopeful for the future and are looking forward to being able to have our camper families and some of our wonderful volunteers down at camp this summer. Make sure to keep looking at our website, social media accounts, this blog, and listen to our monthly radio show with WYSL, to stay up to date on all things Camp Good Days.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Welcoming 2021

I hope that all of you have had a peaceful and pleasant start to the new year. Like many of you, all of us at Camp Good Days were counting down to the end of 2020, ready to put it behind us. 

This new year is made more special with the change in administration in Washington, D.C. This comes with the hope of better days ahead although, as we know, there are no guarantees. I personally, and our staff at Camp Good Days believe that 2021 will be a better year. The development and distribution of the vaccine is a cause for hope, and hopefully by the time summer comes around, the distribution will be enough for us to move forward to a new normal. We are busy planning for our 42nd summer and are developing multiple plans depending on what we can do. Our goal is to make this summer the best one yet! To see our summer camp update, please visit our website.

As I am sure you could have guessed, 2020 was not the best year for fundraisers. Some of ours had to be cancelled, others were postponed, and most of them did not raise the amount that they usually do. If you would like to help us going into the new year, please spread the word about our car raffle and guitar raffle. 

Once again, Vanderstyne Toyota and Toyota USA have generously donated the newest model of the Toyota Corolla SE. The tickets are 1 for $20 or 3 for $50 and all proceeds go right to Camp Good Days. The drawing will be held on April 15, 2021. 


Lou Gramm and his wife, Robyn, with the help of Doug Emblidge have donated a signed guitar from all past and present Foreigner band members to raffle off. The money raised from this raffle will go towards renovating the music hut down at camp, which will be re-named in honor of a good friend of Camp Good Days, singer/songwriter, Bat McGrath, who passed away from cancer. The tickets are 1 for $10 or 3 for $20. You can learn more about both raffles
here.


Unless things change, we have some exciting events coming up in 2021:

February 19-20: The 39th Annual St. John Fisher Teddi Dance for Love

May 24: The 38th Annual Tournament of Love

June 15-18: The 21st Annual Finger Lakes International Wine & Spirits Competition

September 11: The Tour de Teddi

November 6: The 21st Annual Wine Auction Dinner

These events help us raise the much-needed funds to provide our free programs and services, so please spread the word about these events. We always need attendees and volunteers! You can learn more about these events here.

As we move forward into this new year, there are many ways for you to stay up to date on all things Camp Good Days. You can listen to our monthly radio show which airs the first Thursday of every month at 6:30PM on WYSL 1040AM 92.1FM. You can also listen to the podcast of the show on the WYSL website. We will also post all updates on our our social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). 

One of our mottos at Camp Good Days is “Adapt and Adjust,” and we appreciate you being patient and adapting and adjusting with us. No family is ever prepared to hear that their loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and we, at Camp Good Days, will make sure to be there for every family who needs us. 

While we are all missing camp, I urge you to send us some thoughts about how camp has changed your life, or why you hope we will be able to have our in-person camping programs this summer. These anecdotes will be great to hear and will provide some inspiration for us moving forward into the summer. Please send your thoughts through Facebook Messenger or by emailing info@campgooddays.org.

I wish you all a great start to 2021 and I hope to be able to see everyone this summer. 


Thursday, November 5, 2020

A Surprise from Senator Rich Funke...

I hope that this blog finds you well during this crazy year. Like you, we at Camp Good Days are working through the current struggles and are adapting and adjusting to what life is throwing at us. We are working hard so we can continue providing programs and services for families affected by cancer and sickle cell anemia. The ultimate goal is to continue to be there for every child and family who needs us.

In order to generate the financial support we need, we have had to make some changes to our fundraisers and special events. We have held our Annual Wine Auction Dinner for 20 years, but this year, we had to re-imagine the dinner as an online auction. We are going to have hundreds of wine packages along with other exciting items. The auction goes from November 12th at 10:00AM until November 19th at 8:00PM. You can view and bid on the items here.

Thanks to Vanderstyne Toyota and Toyota Motor Corporation, we once again have a car to raffle off! This year, the car will be a 2021 Toyota Corolla SE. Tickets are 1 for $20 and 3 for $50, and the drawing will be on April 15th, 2021. Every single dollar raised from this raffle goes directly to Camp Good Days!

We also have the guitar raffle still going on! Over the years, Rochester's own Lou Gramm, from Foreigner has been an avid supporter of Camp Good Days. Gramm, along with his wife, Robyn, have put together a very special raffle item! In honor of the late Bat McGrath, a well-known singer/songwriter who was also from Rochester and a friend of Camp Good Days, Lou Gramm has donated a guitar signed by past and present members of Foreigner. The proceeds from this raffle will go towards renovating the music activity hut at Camp Good Days’ recreational facility in Branchport, NY. The hut will be re-dedicated in memory of Bat McGrath. Tickets are 1 for $10 or 3 for $20. The drawing will happen at the dedication of the music hut in the spring of 2021.

Information for both the car raffle and the guitar raffle are on our website!

For me, personally, I had a nice surprise when I received a call from Senator Rich Funke, asking if he could come into the office and meet with me. I have known Rich for many years, starting back when he began his career working at a local radio station and later became an anchor with News10NBC. We have a special bond since we both have lost a child to cancer. He presented me with an award, the highest award the New York State Senate can present to a citizen, the Liberty Award.

“The New York State Senate Liberty Award is the state’s highest honor. It is presented to citizens who have merited special commendation for their actions on behalf of their fellow New Yorkers and their community.”

I was very humbled because of the significance of the award and because it is one of the last things Rich will have done before leaving the State Senate. It will be on display in our office in Mendon and once our museum is completed at camp, it will be placed there for all to see.

 



As the holiday season approaches, please keep the children and families of Camp Good Days in your thoughts and prayers. We will continue to be there for everyone diagnosed with cancer and sickle cell anemia who needs us. Cancer doesn’t stop during pandemic and neither will we!

Monday, September 21, 2020

A Camp Good Days Pioneer

In October, we will be starting Camp Good Days’ 42nd year. It is crazy to think that over these years, we have served over 50,000 campers from 22 states and 36 foreign countries. This accomplishment would never have happened without some very important people. One of those people was Adele House, who passed away recently.

I have often talked about how special some of the Camp Good Days pioneers were in the early days and how they helped to make Camp Good Days a reality. It wasn’t until 1982 that we had an office and our first paid staff person; in the beginning, we were all unpaid volunteers who had a dream of making a difference in the lives of children diagnosed with cancer. When I had said that I was starting a camp for children with cancer, most people didn’t really understand what I was trying to do or were fearful because the word “cancer” was the most feared word in the English language, and when it was associated with a child, it was too much for people to think about. The friends who were close to me knew what I was going through and when I asked them to help make Camp happen, they did. They were willing to loosen their ties, roll up their sleeves and do what they needed to do to help make the dream come true because they knew children in our community like my daughter, Teddi, were in need. Camp Good Days was the result of their commitment and hard work. 

When Adele became involved with Camp Good Days, she was the secretary to former Family Court Judge, Anthony Bonadio. As those of you who know me are aware, typing is not a skill that I have, and in order to get everything squared away to be able to host Camp including getting out correspondence, setting up meetings, etc., I needed a great deal of help. Adele offered to help and was able to do it all while working around her full-time job. She found the time to send out notices, press releases, get paperwork done, and she would do whatever she needed to do to help make Camp a reality. Adele and her daughter, Barb, also volunteered at Camp each summer to get the dining hall ready for mealtimes and to clean up after. 

Children and adults have been able to experience the magic of Camp Good Days because of people like Adele; people who felt that they had a calling to do some good in our community. I often say that the two greatest gifts we can give to one another are our love and our time. Adele certainly gave plenty of both, and I will miss her very much.


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Cancer Doesn't Stop During a Pandemic and Neither Do We

During this time of uncertainty, we don’t know what the future might bring. We have a dream of normalcy that might never come to fruition. At Camp Good Days, we have been using the phrase that one of my staff members created, “Cancer doesn’t stop during a pandemic and neither do we.” At Camp Good Days, we are committed to helping the children and families in our community who need us the most. This time has been very busy despite changing schedules and working with 50% of the staff in the office at any given time, but I am blessed with a dedicated staff who have never been more challenged than they were during these past few months. 

We had our 20th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine & Spirits Competition in July and this year, we really had to follow our motto of “adapt and adjust.” When we were confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to rethink the whole competition. We still had a lot of entries that had been sent in and we knew we needed to do something. We met with our committee which included our Head Judge, Bob Madill; our Flighting and Results Manager, Teresa Knapp; and our Director of Special Events & Fundraising, Jamie Varble, and came up with some changes. We determined that since we weren’t having the residential summer programs and we couldn’t host the competition at our usual location of the Holiday Inn in Downtown Rochester, we could host the competition down at our recreational facility on Keuka Lake. We had to move the competition from April to July, the judges who were normally asked to participate could not travel out of country or across certain states, and we had to change the format of the competition. There was great cooperation between our staff, judges and volunteers. While there were not as many judges present and not as many wines and spirits entered, we had to marvel at how much support we received.


When we first started the FLIWC, we started it for two reasons. At the time, there were a lot of wineries popping up in the Finger Lakes and many of them felt that their quality wine was not being recognized. Thanks in part, to the competition, the Finger Lakes wines have received more recognition and are more readily recommended by wine professionals and wine enthusiasts. This year, having the competition hosted at our facility on Keuka Lake brought the competition to the heart of the Finger Lakes and emphasized why the competition was started in the first place. By having it at the facility, the judges were able to see what Camp Good Days was all about. A picture is worth 1,000 words but being there in person is even more impactful. It is a great credit to our staff, volunteers and judges that we were able to make it happen. 

This was the 37th year for our annual golf tournament, the Tournament of Love. For the past 15 years, we have been able to host the tournament at Monroe Golf Club. Originally, the tournament was supposed to be held in May and was then rescheduled to August. There were many changes made to accommodate social distancing guidelines including getting rid of the dinner and award portion of the tournament, staggered tee off times, and boxed lunches. Rather than a dinner, we had hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and the clams that are such a hit every year. For me, it was nice to be home around 6:30PM rather than 10PM and I am sure the golfers appreciated the shortened program as well. We will make less money from the tournament this year, and we had less golfers than normal, but we were able to put on a world-class tournament during a difficult time, and we are very proud of that. 


The Buffalo Gala, which is one of our largest fundraisers in Buffalo, was scheduled for April at the Hyatt. We were unable to hold the event in person and so we made the decision to move the event to an online auction. The generous sponsors agreed to let us keep their pledges and we were able to generate a good amount of money through the online auction. 

Camp Good Days does a lot to help children and families impacted by cancer and sickle cell anemia, and all the programs and services are provided free of charge. These programs cost money, some are very expensive, and even though we are not having the in-person programs this year, we hopefully will be able do so next year. These fundraisers have become key factors in us raising the money to fund these programs and services. Despite all of the challenges and the uncertainties that have been presented to us, we have a group of people who all have a common passion and goal, who rose to the occasion to adapt and adjust to raise money for Camp Good Days. 

To make sure that we are still doing as much as we can to help the children and families who need us, we adapted and adjusted our summer programs. We were unable to have the camping programs, so our Junior Good Days program was made into a virtual program, and we will also be having two weeks of virtual programming for the rest of our young campers coming up later this month. This time can be very isolating for our campers and we are trying to do everything in our power to help them know that they are not alone and that their Camp Good Days family is there for them. As I said earlier, “Cancer doesn’t stop during a pandemic and neither do we.”

Friday, July 24, 2020

A Life Lived in the Service of Others

 
*Photo Credit: St. John Fisher College*
 
I was saddened to learn earlier this week that a friend of mine, Father Joseph Trovato, passed away after 30 years of serving the students at St. John Fisher College and the parishioners at Christ the King Church in Irondequoit. He was the college’s first director of Campus Ministry and served in that position the longest.
 
I can honestly say that every time I was able to see him, he would have a smile on his face. He always asked about my daughter, Teddi, when she was going through her battle with cancer and he was always thinking about the children of Camp Good Days. Lou Buttino, a professor at St. John Fisher, helped to start the Teddi Dance for Love and wrote “For the Love of Teddi.” He introduced me to Father Joe many years ago.
 
One of the Teddi Dance for Love traditions at St. John Fisher, the blessing of the feet, happens the Friday before the dance. The head of campus ministry blesses the students as they lay down with their feet in the air. Father Joe always loved this tradition. He would come by to see the beginning of the dance and would also be there at the end to celebrate with the students. A few years ago, the current director of Campus Ministry, Father Kevin Mannara, surprised me by bringing Father Joe to the dance. That was the highlight of that year’s dance for me.
 
The lives that he touched during his time on Earth are immeasurable. He was truly a saint here on earth because he was always concerned about others before himself. He left everyone who had the chance to meet him feeling better from the experience. I’m sure as he enters the kingdom of Heaven, the Lord will say that he was a good and faithful servant who led a good life in service of others.
 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Moving Forward in this New Normal

 
I hope that you, and your family and friends are doing well during this crazy time of uncertainty. I know for all of us at Camp Good Days, this has been a difficult and stressful time in our lives. It is the first time in 41 years that we will have no summer residential camping programs for the children and families we serve. This decision was not made lightly and has been hard for everyone including our campers, staff and volunteers.
 
On June 27th, it was Teddi‘s birthday. It is hard to believe that she would have been 51 years old. It was a beautiful day in Rochester, so I took flowers to her grave and sat on the bench that I put in a few years ago behind her headstone. I was the only one in the entire cemetery, so I decided to sit for a while and reflect. I started to ask many questions that I will unfortunately never know the answers to: Who would’ve been that special partner in her life? Would she have had or decided not to have children? What would she have done with her life? And what would my life had been like had Teddi not been diagnosed with cancer? I just tried to make sense of these questions and what could have been had my life not changed forever.
 

One of my favorite sayings is something Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” For me, I look back on my life and I realize that I have been doing what I was put on this earth to do. I was initially trying to bring children with cancer out of the dark ages and give them the opportunity to get back some of the childhood illness had stolen from them. I am amazed at how far the organization has come after starting as a simple summer camp for Teddi and 62 other children from Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, who were all dealing with cancer. I started the camp at a time where few people would accept the idea that a child could have a disease like cancer and still be able to have a camping experience. It was also during a time when people did not care about the quality of the lives of children diagnosed with cancer, they only cared about finding a medical cure. Over the years, the medical side has gotten better and we have had better treatments. As a result, children with cancer live longer than in the past, but there is still a need for places like Camp Good Days where those children can have their recreational and psychosocial needs met.
 
I am pleased that with the help of so many volunteers and a group of truly dedicated professional staff, Camp Good Days has continued to be there for children and families affected by cancer from all over the world. On the shores of Keuka Lake and in the town of Branchport, we have created a very special home away from home for our campers. Over the past 41 years, Camp Good Days has served over 50,000 campers from 22 states and 36 countries, and $.90 of every dollar goes directly towards our many programs and services that we provide. Now, we must address the future and plan for what will become the new normal.
 
We are living during a time that we have never seen before in our history. We are dealing with not only the immense civil unrest but also the crazy pandemic that we are struggling with trying to find answers to. There is no question that both have been totally mishandled and the aftermath will affect us for many years. Thinking of all this, we at Camp Good Days are busy trying to come up with a plan that we can implement for our 2021 fiscal year that will address that new normal while hopefully being able to provide safe and fun programs. I think the most important responsibility that we have is given to us by a child’s parent or guardian who has entrusted Camp Good Days with their child’s safety. As I have told our staff and volunteers every summer during training, we need to make sure that we send the children back home in better condition than when they were given to us.
 
I ended my session at Teddi‘s gravesite the same way I do every day, by asking Teddi to be my guardian angel and to help me make the right decisions for the special organization that I am in charge of, especially now when we have had to deal with so much. I hope that she’s proud of her old man and as long as, in my heart, I feel that she is, we will continue to meet these challenges head-on and continue to advocate for the very special children and families in our community who need us the most.