Tuesday, June 23, 2009


As most of you know, we are celebrating our 30th Anniversary Year, here at Camp Good Days, and I have spent much time reflecting on the past 30 years, during which we have served more than 41,000 campers from 22 states and 25 foreign countries. In addition, many of the programs and services started right here have been used as models for other cancer treatment centers and organizations around the world. Everything that we have done and continue to do, here at Camp Good Days, is about improving the quality of life for children, adults and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life threatening challenges.

One of my biggest frustrations has been that I still have to attend funerals for campers…funerals that go against the laws of nature, where parents are burying their children, as I did, instead of it being the way that it should be, where children are burying their parents after a long and prosperous life. Just this month, I attended the funeral services for one of my heroes, Bobby Benedict. Bobby was a camper for many years, worked as part of our summer staff at our Recreational Facility, and was someone who truly served as an inspiration for all of the campers he came into contact with. Bobby was a graduate of SUNY Brockport and went on to work with the YMCA in the Boston area. He was only 37 years old when he lost his life as a result of this horrible disease and the subsequent treatments.

This past Monday, June 22, 2009 was a truly special day at the Camp Good Days’ Recreational Facility on Keuka Lake. In his address to Congress this past February, President Obama provided the opening, when for the first time since President Nixon in 1971, he stated that cancer is a disease that touches all of us and we can defeat it in our lifetime. Following the President’s address, I contacted my Congressman, Eric J.J. Massa, who asked me to lead a CANCER SUMMIT, which we did on Monday, for medical practitioners; those who provide support and educational services to cancer patients and their families; those who are battling cancer; and those who have survived their battle.

For me personally, this CANCER SUMMIT is a dream come true and something I have been waiting for, for a very long time. I have long been frustrated that we as a country have not done more to defeat this disease that this year will kill more than 560,000 of our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, grandparents, and children. In the next 14 months, more Americans will die from cancer than died in every military conflict of the 20th Century, combined. Cancer is an equal-opportunity disease that knows no race, gender, nationality or age.

Attendees at the CANCER SUMMIT represented a large cross section of the cancer community, including: American Cancer Society, AROCC, Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, Camp Good Days, CURE Childhood Cancer, Finger Lakes Radiation Oncology Center, Hematology Oncology Associates of Central New York, I’m Too Young For This, Interlakes Hematology & Oncology, James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, Lakeside Memorial Hospital, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Lipson Cancer Center, Melissa’s Living Legacy, Monroe County Department of Public Health, Rochester General Hospital, Thompson Health, University Hospital, and University of Rochester Medical Center; as well as those personally dealing with cancer.

Working under the philosophy I first saw hanging on the wall at the Fred Hutchinson Bone Marrow Transplant Center, and now hangs on the wall at Camp Good Days, “There is no limit to what we can accomplish, as long as it doesn’t matter who gets the credit,” the goal of the CANCER SUMMIT was to provide the venue in which everyone can come together and discuss ways in which to develop a grassroots effort for our country’s commitment to bringing the war on cancer to the forefront of the public’s attention and the government’s agenda, as well as map out the steps necessary to defeat this disease and to provide the model for other Congressional Districts across the country.

The CANCER SUMMIT kicked off with a welcome and outline of the day’s goals and objectives by me followed by comments from Congressman Massa, who also shared his commitment with attendees that defeating cancer in our lifetime is a priority. The attendees were all captivated and motivated by the comments and remarks from guest speaker, Dr. Brian Monahan. Dr. Monahan currently serves as the Attending Physician of the United States Congress. He is responsible for the 535 members of the House and Senate, as well as the nine justices of the Supreme Court. He holds the rank of Rear Admiral and was formerly Director of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the National Naval Medical Center.

The attendees were treated to a cookout lunch at the waterfront, and then split into three subcommittees for afternoon sessions. The subcommittee of those who are dealing with cancer was led by Congressman Massa; the attending Physicians met with Dr. Monahan; and the community service agency representatives also met as a subcommittee. The entire group came back together and reports from each subcommittee were provided by Congressman Massa; Dr. Richard Constantino; and Mark Cronin, who is the Division Director, Strategic Health Initiatives, Upstate New York for the American Cancer Society.

The CANCER SUMMIT closed with final remarks from Congressman Massa and I, and although we have much to do, attendees left with a sense of renewed hope and success in having taken the first steps in the right direction.

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