As I write the last blog for 2022, I write with a heart that
is broken. This year will go down as one of the most challenging years for Camp
Good Days and for me personally. Still, at the end of 2022, we are continuing
to feel the full effect of the pandemic. This resulted in difficulty in
hiring not only summer staff but also full-time staff in our offices. For the first time ever, we have also had trouble securing needed volunteers for our many summer camping programs. Even as we resume our fundraising efforts, we see difficulties from the pandemic. We have seen a decline in attendees to our fundraisers, directly affecting our bottom line. We work hard at Camp Good Days to fundraise what we need to run all of our programs so that I am able to keep my promise to our campers’ parents that they will never have to struggle between paying bills or paying for their child to attend summer camp.
The last couple of months have been extraordinarily hard on not only me but our Camp Good Days family as we have lost friends, campers, and beloved volunteers. Between Christmas and New Year’s, we had to say goodbye to our 6½-year-old English Bulldog, Invictus. Invictus, or “Vic” as we called him, joined our family when he was just a puppy after we returned from a trip to Florida.
We traveled to Florida after we were forced to put down our colored bull terrier, Rebel, from cancer. Florida gave us the ability to get away from what was happening. We flew down to Florida with no return flight home, ensuring that we allowed ourselves time to heal and recharge. This was the first trip I had taken in a very long time where there was nothing I had to do, no meetings or phone calls. It was truly an abrupt but needed change of pace. Needless to say, after one week or so of no plans, I was bored out of my mind. One highlight of the trip that we greatly enjoyed was attending a Gold Medal Wheelchair Basketball game, hosted at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. This game was a part of the Invictus Games started the year before by Prince Harry for wounded veterans to participate in. I was amazed at how competitive and skilled the veterans were; Wendy was amazed by seeing Prince Harry. But I was grateful for this trip as it gave me some needed answers. On our trip home to Rochester, I told Wendy how happy I was that we went on this trip because it became evident that I wasn’t ready to retire, nor could I live in Florida during the summer, but most importantly that we needed to get a new dog. When summer camp began in June of that year, I did not want to have to tell the children of Rebel’s passing of cancer. I thought that the presence of a new puppy would help to avoid that conversation. Our first choice was a bull terrier, but it proved very hard to find one. We then heard of a breeder nearby with Old English Bulldog puppies. We called her to express our interest and she told us to come by and that we would have the pick of the litter. When I saw Vic, I immediately knew that he was the dog for our family. We brought him to camp that next summer and the campers were so happy to have a puppy around. Vic was a hit, everyone from volunteers to staff to campers couldn’t get enough of him and he enjoyed every second.
Our dogs have always been a special part of camp. For a child, following their diagnosis can be quite a troubling time and a time when their self-confidence might falter. They face invasive scars, the loss of hair, rapid increase or decrease in weight, or even the need for a prosthesis. During this time, it may be difficult for them to like themselves in the mirror or truly feel like themselves around others. Dogs are able to help them through this process. They pass no judgment and see them the same way they wish to be seen. It gives them a very much-needed companion at camp. One of my favorite quotes is from Bobby Bowden, a former football coach at Florida State University, he said “Money can buy a dog but only love can make it wag its tail”. That summer I never saw Vic when his little nub tail wasn’t wagging. He helped those children as much as they helped him.
Unfortunately, when we were counting down the days to 2023 to put this past year in the rearview mirror in hopes that the next would be better, Vic became very sick. We were soon told that he was in liver failure and sadly passed a few days before the New Year. I can’t help but think that the Lord put Vic in our lives for a reason. And I am sure that reason was to help every child he met at camp and love them as only he could. He was a good dog that everyone fell in love with. He has left a void in everyone that loved him, which was many. I truly believe that the good Lord does not give us more than we can handle. This new year brings a promise of a year with less covid and a big step towards normalcy at camp with our many programs and events.
I don’t drink but if I did, I would say to raise a glass to a new year filled with many good days and special times. I also want to wish everyone that has helped and supported Camp Good Days a new year filled with peace, good health, and much much love.