Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reflections on the Annual Florida Trip

A group of campers and volunteers from Camp Good Days just returned from the Annual Trip to Central Florida and as they boarded the plane to return to Upstate New York I had a chance to reflect on the past few days we all spent together. The group consisted of campers from a number of our programs and included children with cancer or sickle cell anemia, young adults dealing with cancer and women from our Women’s Oncology Program and it was wonderful to see them, along with the volunteers, all interact and enjoy this magical experience together. They had the opportunity to visit St. Pete Beach and Tampa, as well as enjoy visits to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center, and Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Since the beginning of Camp Good Days, more than 30 years ago, we have been blessed to have so many special friends, who always go above and beyond to help us continue providing good days and special times to all those we serve. This trip was no exception. John & Linda Mongoven, along with their friends and neighbors at Hunter’s Creek in Orlando welcomed the group to Orlando, providing dinner, activities and an exciting Snake Education Show with Chief Rowley, all on the evening the group arrived. The next day everyone traveled to St. Pete’s Beach where they had the chance to spend the afternoon at the ocean, playing on the beach and the giant waterslide, courtesy of Tradewinds Resort and great friends, Steve & Patti DiGennaro, who also cooked dinner for everyone, inviting us all into their home. The group got to meet and spend some time with Kelly and Steve Christie, which was very exciting for some of the Buffalo Bills’ fans and those who have never had the chance to meet a former NFL player before. Thanks to the generosity of Mark Sofia and the Tampa Bay Lightening, the group got to attend the Lightening Hockey Game, watching them take on the Florida Panthers, with special Tampa Bay Lightening hats and souvenirs. Again, there were a number of participants for whom this was their first time attending a NHL game.

The rest of the trip was spent at the theme parks, riding the rides and taking in all the excitement of each park, from seeing their favorite characters, the Illuminations Show at Epcot and the Celebration Parade at Magic Kingdom. To hear the cheers of everyone on the bus as we pulled into the Walt Disney World and to see everyone’s faces light up, both the children and adults, as we took the ferry boat over to Magic Kingdom and Cinderella’s castle came into view, is truly beyond description. We also had plenty of time in the hotel pool and time to just relax with everyone. Overall, it was a fantastic trip during which everyone bonded and had a great time.

It amazes me that no matter where we go with the campers and volunteers, the concept of this being a small world is always reaffirmed. At the various parks and attractions we visited in Central Florida, we were approached by people who had either been a part of Camp Good Days themselves or had a family member or friend who was a part of Camp Good Days and took the time to stop and chat and share how much Camp Good Days meant to those who have been a part of our family. We also were stopped by complete strangers, who seeing our Camp Good Days’ shirts and flag, wanted to just share that they had heard about Camp Good Days and to say that they had heard wonderful things about our organization. It is so nice and I am so proud that Camp Good Days has grown to become such a meaningful and important organization with a reputation and image that knows no boundaries.

This trip requires much planning and preparation and many resources. Again, we have been so blessed over the years to have supporters who help to make this trip a reality each and every year. The students at St. John Fisher College who are part of the Teddi Committee and who participate in the Annual Dance for Love, a 24-hour dance marathon, raise funds that directly support this trip for the children with cancer. The 28th Annual Dance for Love will be held this February 12-13, 2010. In addition, the Gary Amendola Fun Fund also helps to make this trip possible. This fund was established in memory of Gary Amendola, who was a good friend, supporter and member of the Camp Good Days’ Board of Directors and lost his own battle with cancer, and provides the funding for special trips and activities throughout the year. The Sugarman Smiles Fund was established at Camp Good Days by local businessman, Gary Sugarman, and helps to provide the funding for special trips and activities for adults dealing with cancer. And last, but certainly not least, this trip would never have been possible without the unwavering support of Wayne Meisenzahl who was completing his own treatment for cancer years ago and wanted to give children touched by cancer the opportunity to experience firsthand, the magic of Central Florida. The Annual Florida Trip has continued because of the generosity of Ms. Germaine K. Hess, one of Meisenzahl’s clients, who left a bequest to Camp Good Days, through an estate, specifically to ensure that Camp Good Days will be able to continue providing the Annual Florida Trip.

To see the photos from this very special trip, check out the Photo Gallery on our website, and don’t miss the 28th Annual Dance for Love at the Student Life Center at St. John Fisher College, from 8PM – 8PM, Friday & Saturday, February 12-13, 2010!