Thursday, November 1, 2007

Help Camp Good Days This Holiday Season!

All of us here at Camp Good Days are gearing up for the Holiday Season and finalizing the plans for the Annual Kazoo Fest. The Kazoo Fest was started 62 years ago by Joe Benet outside the Toy Department of the Sibley’s store on Main Street in Downtown Rochester, and has become one of the major and most successful fundraising events to benefit the many programs and services provided by Camp Good Days. Following Joe Benet’s death from cancer, his son, former Monroe County Legislator, Bill Benet, contacted me, to see if the Kazoo Fest tradition could be continued, staffed by volunteers, with proceeds benefiting the programs and services at Camp Good Days. Since 1984, Camp Good Days has continued the Kazoo Fest at various locations.

Last year, Camp Good Days held the Kazoo Fest through partnerships and support from Tom Wahl’s, Bill Gray’s, Hegedorn’s, and Lord & Taylor, and finished the Kazoo Fest season with the attempt to break the Guinness World Record for Largest Kazoo Ensemble at the City of Rochester’s New Year’s Eve Celebration.

Over 2600 community members participated in the record attempt, which lead to successfully breaking the existing record, making Camp Good Days and the City of Rochester the Official Guinness World Record Holders for the Largest Kazoo Ensemble!

This Holiday Season, Camp Good Days will have a number of Kazoo Fest locations including: Lord & Taylor at Eastview Mall; JCPenney at Eastview Mall; JCPenney at Marketplace Mall; JCPenney at Greece-Ridge Center; Walden-Galleria Mall in Buffalo; Best Buy in Carousel Mall in Syracuse; and Best Buy in Elmira.

I encourage you to stop by one of our Kazoo Fest locations this Holiday Season. You will have the chance to learn more about the many programs and services we provide, as well as the many volunteer opportunities available. In addition, you will you have the opportunity to pick up some great stocking stuffers, and at the same time know that you are helping us to continue providing some good days and special times for the very special children and families we serve.

We also need many volunteers to help us staff our Kazoo Fest locations, so if you would like to help us out, please contact Betsy Nagel, here at Camp Good Days, 585-624-5555 or You can pick the location, date and time that is most convenient for you.

Wishing all of you a Holiday Season filled with good health, peace, happiness, and much love!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Courage Bowl...More Than Just A Game!

For one night, thanks to the coaches at the University of Rochester, and my fellow coaches at St. John Fisher College, six children battling cancer will have the chance to truly be a part of a college football team, during Courage Bowl III.

Courage Bowl III, the annual football game between the St. John Fisher College Cardinals and the University of Rochester Yellowjackets, dedicated to the children of Camp Good Days and Special Times, will be played on Saturday, September 15, 2007 at 7:00 PM at Growney Stadium on the St. John Fisher College campus.

Most of us take our good health for granted and have the chance to follow through on many of our dreams, such as playing football, yet, this population of children battling cancer does not have the luxury of dreams like that. Children with cancer are generally not able to participate in organized football, due to their illness and as a result of their treatments, so for them to have the opportunity to be a real part of a college football team is so extraordinary and truly an once-in-a-lifetime experience that they will remember for all of their life.

These six Honorary Coaches, three with each team, will attend a practice session with their team; will meet their team for the pre-game meal; will be in the locker room with their team; will lead their teams onto the field; will be at midfield for the coin toss; and will “coach” from the sidelines with their fellow coaches. Following the game, the names of all six Honorary Coaches will be inscribed on the Teddi Trophy, named for my daughter, Teddi.

In addition this year, two girls battling cancer will have the opportunity to be Honorary Cheerleaders with each team’s Cheerleading Squads. The girls will also attend a practice with their squad; meet their squad pre-game to get ready; and spend the game on the sidelines with their fellow cheerleaders.

Because the sidelines of a college football game can be a bit dangerous, we are only able to select six Honorary Coaches, however, for the other campers from Camp Good Days dealing with cancer there will be a special Camp Good Days’ Courage Bowl Tailgate Party, sponsored and hosted by Tompkins Insurance Agencies, AM&M Financial Services, and the Bank of Castile. The Courage Bowl Tailgate Party will take place at the Alumni Terrace at St. John Fisher College and includes dinner, games and activities, and special seating for the game.

The Inaugural Courage Bowl was played in September 2005 at Growney Stadium in front of a record-breaking crowd and Courage Bowl II was played in September 2006 at Fauver Stadium on the University of Rochester campus in front of a sell-out crowd. This year we anticipate no different as thousands are expected to come out not only to support their team, but to support the children and families of Camp Good Days. We are also thrilled that the game will be televised live on WROC TV-8, with a re-broadcast on FOX Rochester and will also be carried on WYSL News 1040AM and Hot Talk 1280 AM.

All of us at Camp Good Days hope to see you at the game! Courage Bowl…More Than Just A Game!

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Real War on Terror...The War on Cancer

After the recent loss of my mother-in-law, who was only 66 years old, to uterine cancer, I have been watching the talking heads on television with the whole periphery of men and women who want to become our President and the leader of the free world, yet, no one is talking about the real war on terror, which is cancer.

Not only does cancer, in many instances, prematurely take your life, but it almost seems as if it has to humiliate you while it is doing so. I think that most people, either themselves or someone in their family, circle of friends, neighborhood, church, synagogue or mosque, knows of someone dealing with the pain of cancer. I am sure that most people believe or want to believe, as American citizens living in the greatest country on earth, that everything that could possibly be done to help prevent and find a cure for cancer is being done. I am sorry to say that if one looks at our “war on cancer” they would agree that it makes the war in Iraq look good. The war on cancer is the most dysfunctional war this country has ever been involved with.

Stop and think about our enemy, cancer. If you are 85 years old or younger in this country today, it is more likely you will die from cancer than any other cause. For those 30-55 years old, more will die from cancer than the next three causes combined. One out of every two men and one out of every three women will deal with cancer at some point in their lifetime. Childhood cancer remains one of the leading causes of death for children in our country. Over the next 14 months, more people in America will die from cancer than lost their lives in every military conflict of the 20th century. Cancer is as if one of the Twin Towers is collapsing every single day, 365 days a year.

What are we doing about it?

For the first time in many years, with factoring in for inflation, the National Institute of Health is receiving less funding for cancer research. The number of post-doctoral professionals working on this research has decreased this year, from 11,700 to 10,000. Funding for clinical trials, where most of the progress results from is being cut of 5-8%.

This seems to be the answer to what we are doing about the war on cancer. None of the talking heads are putting this war on the forefront and asking the candidates what their commitment to the war on cancer is going to be, as it will kill some 560,000 Americans this year. And those who lose their battle do not live in a vacuum, they are somebody’s mom, dad, brother, sister, husband, wife and unfortunately, somebody’s child.

The money that the government doles out every year for everything imaginable under the stars, is not their money! IT IS OUR MONEY, EVERY AMERICAN’S MONEY!

We need to say, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and that we want more of our money spent to find some of these answers. The only way that can happen is to have a Chief Executive call to order a major conference like we did with the Manhattan Project, which created the Atomic Bomb. We need to have our best resources come together and give them a blank check once and for all to find the answers.

If we are in that age bracket of 35-60, and we find a lump that needs to be biopsied or the doctor recommends additional testing, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we are more afraid of being told that we have cancer than we are of being the victim of a terrorist attack.

We need to start putting our priorities in the order they belong – making our people and our loved ones the top priority so that maybe, at some point in our lifetimes, we will find that elusive cure.

What greater gift could we leave to our children and the people around the world?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Good Guys in Sports

Oftentimes, the professional athletes who are truly positive life models for our youth, are overshadowed by the negative actions and decisions of their colleagues (steroid use; excessive drinking; drug use; etc), however, there have been a number of professional athletes who not only are positive life models, but who over the years, have gone above and beyond to help provide some good days and special times for the children and families served by Camp Good Days and Special Times.

Steve Christie, Scott Norwood, Danny Briere, John Calipari, and Jim Boeheim, just to name a few, are all not only exceptional players or outstanding coaches in their respective sports, but all of them are people whom we at Camp Good Days are proud to call our friends.

Each of those noted above has given not only their financial contributions, which help Camp Good Days to provide all of our programs and services, which are offered free of charge for the participants, but each of them has given of their personal time to be a part of Camp Good Days’ special fundraising events, such as the Tournament of Love Celebrity Golf Scramble; the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, Auction & Dinner; and the Buffalo Creative Black Tie Gala. In addition, some of them have taken the time to visit Camp Good Days’ Recreational Facility, spending time with the campers and seeing firsthand what they have helped to make possible. They have also contributed their services and expertise with game tickets; artwork; and special activities for our campers.

Steve Christie, Scott Norwood, Danny Briere, John Calipari, Jim Boeheim, and others who have given of their time and love to the children of Camp Good Days are some of the few professional athletes who understand that many people, especially children, are watching their every move and they take that very seriously. They are professionals, making the right choices, doing the right thing, and providing a positive role model for our youth.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pearls of Wisdom

Recently, my wife, Wendy, and I lost someone very special to us, Wendy’s Mom, Sandy, who was just shy of a three year battle with uterine cancer. During the final stages of her battle, as we spent time with her, I thought about some pearls of wisdom I have picked up over the past 28 years with Camp Good Days and Special Times and I thought I would share them with you.

The first is that the two most important times in our life…the exact moment when we take our first breath and enter this world, and the exact moment when we take our last breath and leave the world as we know it…are the two moments that we have no control over.

Secondly, I remember reading a study that had been conducted with terminally ill cancer patients, asking them what they were most afraid of. I, like most others I think, thought their biggest fear would be dying. The physical act of dying was a distant third. The first was the fear of being in excruciating pain at the time of death and the second was being alone at the time of death. When dealing with a loved one facing a terminal illness, it is important that we do everything humanly possible to alleviate these fears; keep them from experiencing excruciating pain; and assuring them that they will not be alone at the time of their death.

Finally, the greatest gift that we have with those we love is our memories, as those are what is left behind and remain unchanged forever. The memories are what we carry in our hearts and minds and it is so important that we try and build some memories that we can keep with us always.

I truly believe that Sandy is in a better place and free from all of the pain and ravishing effects of this horrible disease, and I take comfort in knowing that our family kept her free from excruciating pain and that she was not alone at the time of her death. We will always carry our special memories of Sandy in our hearts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The War on Cancer!

Are you as fed up as I am? Cancer will kill some 560,000 of our fellow Americans this year…that is as if one of the twin towers were to fall every single day, seven days a week, all year long! It is estimated that 3500 people in our country are told that they have cancer every day; that is the equivalent to seven new cancer diagnoses every minute!

Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death for children, ages 0-14, following accidents and it is hard to believe that in 2007 the only thing we have to offer those diagnosed with this horrific disease is chemotherapy (poison); radiation; or radical surgery; and I know that future generations will look back at how we treated our fellow citizens battling this disease, as nothing short of barbaric.

We are in the midst of longer presidential campaigns, yet the biggest sin committed during these campaigns, is that not one of the candidates, nor those who interview them, ever talk about what their commitment is going to be to trying to find the answers that have been alluding us regarding cancer.

It seems that everywhere I turn and everywhere I go, I run into someone who has been diagnosed with cancer themselves, or has a family member or friend who is dealing with cancer. We can not wait any longer; the time for action is NOW!

The place to start is electing the next President of the United States who is committed to bringing together the best researchers (i.e. The Manhattan Project that developed the Atomic Bomb); and seeing that the proper and adequate funding is provided so that once and for all we can find some of the answers we are so desperately seeking.

It is time to put an end to children having to grow up without their Mom or Dad and parents having to defy the laws of nature by burying their children.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Coach Yow A True Role Model

At a time when we are all searching for role models for the young people in our community, one needs to look no further than Coach Kay Yow, the North Carolina State Women’s Head Basketball Coach. Coach Yow, who is a member of the Hall of Fame and tends to fly under the radar, is one of the most successful and most respected women’s basketball coaches.

I was fortunate enough to personally spend some time with Coach Yow several years ago, after she was initially diagnosed with breast cancer, and she attended our Pete Pavia Sports Celebrity Dinner. Recently, she has faced a recurrence of her cancer, having been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. They say that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we deal with it. Following her recurrence, Coach Yow has had to undergo aggressive chemotherapy and miss many practices and time with her players and coaches, but despite that, and even in the sorrow of her father’s recent death, learning that her team had made it to the NCAA Playoffs, she was back courtside bringing her team to victory in the first game of the tournament.

Coach Yow’s dignity and courage is a demonstration to her team of how one deals with adversity and shows all of us that anything is possible. In a recent New York Times article, about this excellent coach and courageous woman, it is explained how she has followed the advice that she has given her team many times: “Don’t drown in self-pity. Swish your feet a little, then get out.”

Many people in big-time sports always talk the talk, but Coach Yow walks that talk everyday. Coach Yow provides an exceptional example not only for those who are fortunate enough to play for her, but for all of us, on how to overcome challenges and make the best out of the hand that we are dealt. She is truly an inspiration to me.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Welcome to my Blog!

Dear Friends:

Welcome to my new Blog! I hope you can take a few minutes to check out my blog, every so often, and feel free to send your comments and thoughts. This blog will be my venue for sharing with you not only all that is going on here at Camp Good Days, but some of the issues and challenges we face as an organization serving those with cancer and other life threatening challenges.

When Camp Good Days cut the ribbon on our own beautiful Recreational Facility, the publisher of The Buffalo News, Murray Light, asked me what I wanted to do next…I replied that I wanted to close the camp, as I truly believed that at some point during my lifetime we would find a means of preventing cancer, so that no other parents would have to go against the laws of nature by having to bury their children, as I did with my daughter, Teddi.

In 1979, when Teddi, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, cancer was the leading killer of children, following accidents. Twenty-eight years later, cancer remains one of the leading killers of children, following accidents. The advances that have come about can be credited to earlier diagnosis and more effective means of treatment.

It is time that this country woke up and took a long, hard look at the way money is being spent, under the umbrella of cancer research. We need, as Dr. Sidney Farber wanted many years ago, a highly coordinated, concentrated effort…not one that is parochial and sporadic.

After looking at the latest statistics, WE ARE NOT WINNING THE WAR ON CANCER, despite the fact that we are spending billions of dollars each year! It is projected that this year, over 560,000 of our friends and family members will die of cancer! Over the next 14 months, more Americans will die from cancer than have perished in every war this nation fought in during the 20th century. Deaths from cancer in this country can be described as if one of the twin towers were to collapse every single day.

Cancer is the number one killer of those under age 75. Among those 45-64, cancer is responsible for more deaths than the next three causes (heart disease, accidents, and stroke) combined.

As we all begin to think about the upcoming Presidential Election and begin to hear from many of the candidates vying for their party’s nomination, as well as those seeking positions for local, state, and other federal offices, we all need to let our representatives and the candidates know that in the coming years, we want them to be committed to doing what President Nixon had hoped to do some 30 years ago and declare an all out war on this disease, so that all of the Teddis of the future will be able to live their lives and go on to become wives, mothers, and viable members of society.

We have all waited long enough and if you would like to get involved in bringing the war on cancer to the forefront, let us know!

In other news…right now, all of us at Camp Good Days and Special Times are in full gear preparing and planning for all of the summer residential and day camping programs for 2007 as well as many of our special fundraising events. All of the programs we provide, here at Camp Good Days, for so many special children, adults, and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life challenges are offered free of charge for the participants. We are only able to continue this because of the generosity of so many individuals, organizations, and businesses, and the success of our special fundraising events. Check out our website for more information about all the programs, services, activities and events going on, as well as the many volunteer opportunities available and I hope that you will be able to join us this summer!

Gary Mervis
Chairman & Founder