Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This past Monday, June 27, 2011 would have been my daughter Teddi’s 42nd Birthday. As I do every year on this date, I think about all of the what ifs and what could have beens – what kind of young woman would she have grown up to become? What educational and career path would she have chosen? Would she be married and who would she have married? Would she have children? And, what would I have been doing all these years and these hours if my little girl had never gotten sick?

As many of you know, this has been a very sad and trying week for so many within the Camp Good Days’ family. Late Sunday afternoon, following a 15 month battle with multiple myeloma, a dear friend and volunteer with Camp Good Days and my brother-in-law, Ron Federico, lost his battle to cancer. Ron was surrounded by his family and friends in the ICU at Strong Memorial Hospital and everyone who was blessed to have known Ron is suffering a tremendous loss.

I met Ron some 31 years ago, when I was just a Dad desperately working to provide Teddi and other children with cancer with a residential camping experience not available to them at that time. For the next 20 years or so, Ron volunteered at the camping programs with the children and was an integral partner in planning the many camping programs and special experiences for the campers. Throughout the years, Ron also found the time to volunteer and help with many special fundraising events including Ridin’ for a Reason, the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and Wine Auction Dinner, Kazoo Fest, as well as Holiday Parties and other activities and events. Ron was a graduate of St. Bonaventure and spent his career working in government.

I was so thrilled that Ron met his wife, Tamara, at Camp Good Days. As many of you know, Tammy has been our Office Manager, Women’s Oncology Program Coordinator and such an important member of our staff here at Camp Good Days. Tammy and Ron were so good for each other and at the time that they got together, Tammy was a single mom, raising two young adolescent daughters and Ron became their rock. Anyone who knew Ron knows that he was as solid as an oak tree – always someone that could be counted on, and as the country song says, he was the kind of friend a friend would like to have. Ron was a great husband, a great step-father, a great brother-in-law, a great uncle, a great volunteer, a great brother, and a great son, as he would visit every Saturday and would take his Dad out to have a cigar. Ron retired from his career in December 2009 and sadly did not have the opportunity to enjoy that retirement as within a few months he was diagnosed with cancer. Ron was a gentleman in every sense of the word and words can’t truly express how much he will be missed.

Once again, I feel such great frustration and sadness, as we continue to watch and be affected by the complete devastation and toll that cancer takes on so many. It makes me that much more committed to CANCER MISSION 2020…THE END OF CANCER BY THE END OF THE DECADE. Cancer is an equal-opportunity disease – it doesn’t care if you are a man or a woman, if you are white, black, yellow, brown or orange, and it doesn’t care if you are old, middle aged or if you are a young child. We DO have the ability and the means in this country to find the answers to this fight on cancer, we just need to create the will in the American people that we will no longer accept cancer and the devastation and pain it causes and that we must have cohesive, comprehensive and collaborative actions to truly put an end to cancer by the end of the decade.

If you agree – JOIN THE MISSION AND SIGN THE PETITION! Visit today and help us put an end to all of this pain and suffering and sadness.

As we bury Ron on Thursday, I ask that you keep Tamara and their entire family in your thoughts and prayers, not only this week but in the weeks and months to come. I know that Teddi will be there to greet Ron at the gates of heaven, along with all the loved ones, special friends and family members who have passed away over the years.

Despite all of our sadness, we continue on with our important work and our programs. I am happy to report that summer camp officially kicked off on Monday and all seems to be going well with the campers who are having a great experience at the Sharing & Caring / Do The Right Thing Program at the Recreational Facility, as well as the Junior Good Days Program in the Syracuse area, which is for those campers who are still too little to attend overnight camp.

I know that I am looking forward to having a nice night out at the Rochester Rhinos game, on Friday, July 1, 2011 to help take my mind off all of the difficulties this week. If you are available, please join Camp Good Days at the Rochester Rhinos game at Sahlen’s Stadium, 460 Oak Street, Downtown Rochester. The gates open at 6:30 PM, the game begins at 7:30 PM, and it is the Rhinos Give Back to Camp Good Days Night! The Rochester Rhinos have been such great friends and supporters of the children at Camp Good Days over the years and we are thrilled that they have chosen us as the beneficiary of this special evening. Camp Good Days will receive $1.00 from each ticket sold on game day, as well as have the Quarters for Cancer table set up where attendees can make donations, purchase a ticket for the Courage Bowl Car Raffle, and JOIN THE MISSION BY SIGNING THE PETITION for CANCER MISSION 2020…THE END OF CANCER BY THE END OF THE DECADE!

Please remember to visit the Camp Good Days’ website,, for all the information about our programs and special events and activities taking place and please take a moment to check out and join us in our important initiative to end cancer by the end of the decade, so that we no longer have to have such sad weeks as this one, losing someone so dear to us because of this dreadful disease!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday's Update

This morning I had my first opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Rochester, Tom Richards, since he won the Special Election earlier this year and I had the chance to share with Mayor Richards a little bit about Camp Good Days, as well as our latest initiative, CANCER MISSION 2020…THE END OF CANCER BY THE END OF THE DECADE and some ways in which we could work together on this important initiative.

I then had lunch with my longtime friend and Camp Good Days’ Board Member, Dick Kaplan, who as a very successful businessman with years of leadership and strategic management experience, is helping us to formulate a solid business plan as we move forward with CANCER MISSION 2020.

This evening we will be meeting with a large group of parents and some campers to inform them all about the programs their children will be attending this summer; share with them what we expect from them as parents and from their children as campers, as well as what they can expect from all of us at Camp Good Days. This is another way in which we are striving to have open lines of communication and ensure that all of our campers have the most wonderful and beneficial experience possible while they are at Camp Good Days. These meetings are also taking place in Ithaca, Syracuse and Buffalo and we hope that they will serve to further build and strengthen our relationships with the many families we serve.

Sadly, I learned today that Elizabeth Messick, one of our long-term campers and someone who has been a part of the Camp Good Days’ family for many years since she was a camper, passed away yesterday. I was so proud that after she was a camper, Elizabeth went on to become a nurse. Elizabeth had to deal with a variety of challenges as a result of the effects from her battle with cancer and the treatments, but she was always so excited to be a part of our summer camping programs and had many special friends at Camp and in fact I had just talked to her recently about how much she was looking forward to Camp this summer. Our hearts go out to the Messick family and Elizabeth will be missed by all of her Camp Good Days’ friends.

Once again, this dreadful disease has hit very close to home. Clouding everything this past weekend and this week has been the fact that Tammy, who has been a part of our staff for many years, and her husband, Ron, whom she met through Camp Good Days, as Ron has been a volunteer and involved with many of our programs and committees for the better part of 30 years, and has been facing his own battle with cancer since being diagnosed last year, were dealt a major setback this week. It’s hard to believe that just one week ago, we all had dinner and visited the cemetery together, as it was the fourth anniversary of Wendy and Tammy’s mom passing, after battling uterine cancer. Now, just a week later, Ron is in the hospital battling for his own life.

If you needed a reason to check out CANCER MISSION 2020 ( and join us in the important initiative to END CANCER BY THE END OF THE DECADE by all coming together to find a comprehensive, cohesive and collaborative way to end this disease, then I urge you to just think about Ron and all those who are battling this disease right now, and all those who will have to face a cancer diagnosis today.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but as of right now it’s looking like a day full of meetings, which I will update you all on in a future post and please keep the Messick Family and Tammy & Ron and their family in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Recap from the Weekend

As I shared with you on Friday, it was a busy weekend with many things going on.

I had the opportunity on Friday afternoon to tour the new Saunders Research Building at the University of Rochester Medical Center with my old friend, Bob Witmer, and to meet Dr. Thomas Pearson, the Director of that facility. I was truly impressed with Dr. Pearson and the facility and was excited to learn about all that they will be doing at the facility to help generate much needed research and science to help us find the answers to cancer and other diseases. We are very fortunate, here in Rochester, to have been selected by Congress and the National Institutes for Health as one of the initial sites to build such a facility and to have Dr. Pearson providing the guidance and leadership for their work.

For those of you who have been involved with and following CANCER MISSION 2020…THE END OF CANCER BY THE END OF THE DECADE, you know that I truly believe that if we are going to find the answers to cancer we need to educate the American public about the absolute necessity of research and clinical trials, especially for adult cancer patients. Currently in the United States, only 3-5% of adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials. Where we have made some real progress is in the area of pediatric cancers because 65-70% of pediatric cancer patients are participating in clinical trials.

For more information about CANCER MISSION 2020, please check out and JOIN THE MISSION BY SIGNING THE PETITION!

From the meeting with Bob and Dr. Pearson, I went straight to Clifford & Conkey Avenues in the City of Rochester for the Project T.I.P.S. (Trust, Information, Programs & Services) event. This was our second Project T.I.P.S. event for 2011 and the location was a new one for us. The weather held out and by all accounts it was another successful afternoon with many community residents sharing their thoughts, concerns and ideas through the anonymous community surveys. Residents then came and joined us for a cookout, with burgers, hot dogs and beverages all generously provided by TOPS Markets. A special thanks goes out to our good friends, Mike Lawandus and Velma Campbell, as well as some staff members from Camp Good Days’ and Rise Up Rochester who manned the grills all afternoon! Residents also had the chance to obtain valuable information from a wide variety of social service agency representatives including: Rochester / Monroe County Youth Bureau, City of Rochester Department of Recreation, Pathways to Peace, and many more. The Rochester Police Department had their Child Find area set-up; the Rochester Fire Department had their portable Fire House set up for the kids; A Horses’ Friend provided horse rides for the kids; the New York State Police did their car seat checks for parents; and DJ Dr. Sweetback kept everyone entertained with his music.

It was a great afternoon for the community and representatives from New York State Police, US Marshal’s Service, FBI, Rochester Police Department, Rochester Fire Department, Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, Monroe County Probation, the Youth Violence Intervention Partnership at Strong Memorial Hospital, all joined in to make it a success.

As a special highlight, Joe Szafranski, a Buffalo Police Department Officer and New York State National Guard Staff Sergeant rode to Project T.I.P.S. as part of his Ride 4 Cancer 2020. Joe spent some time at the event and was presented with a special Proclamation from Monroe County Executive, Maggie Brooks, proclaiming Friday, June 17, 2011 as Joe Szafranski Day in the County of Monroe.

On Saturday I was up early and proud to see my grandson, Shane, graduate from DeSales High School in Geneva. We also attended the Buffalo Creative Black Tie Gala on Saturday evening and I am happy to report that Joe made it back to Buffalo safe and sound and completed his Ride 4 Cancer 2020 and it was great to see him and his family recognized during the gala. Once again, Lisa Donato from our Buffalo Office, along with her staff, gala committee and the many, many volunteers did an outstanding job! What a great event, with attendees joining in on the Wizard of Oz theme – There’s No Place Like Camp! The decorations, designed by Mike Russo and his team truly brought us all into the Emerald City, Rob Lederman, once again, did an amazing job as Master of Ceremonies and Lindy Ruff graciously accepted the Spirit of Teddi Award, from his player and Honorary Chairman, Paul Guastad, for all that he and his family have done in support of the children and families at Camp Good Days. Special thanks to all those who attended on Saturday and to everyone who helped, in small ways and big ways, to make that event a wonderful success again this year.

On Sunday, I did, in fact, have the chance to relax a little bit, spending a beautiful Father’s Day at Frontier Field for the Red Wings game with Wendy and her Dad.

This week, we continue with our Summer Staff Training at the Recreational Facility, where this past weekend a group of 25 young men and women dealing with cancer had a wonderful retreat and I have a number of meetings scheduled regarding the many things we have going on and coming up including CANCER MISSION 2020, wrapping up the Tournament of Love, finalizing plans and details for the Corey-Coffey Golf Classic, and finalizing the plans and necessary paperwork for the new building being constructed at the Recreational Facility, promoting Courage Bowl VII, and more!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Busy Weekend for Camp Good Days!

I had the opportunity to spend Thursday at the Camp Good Days’ Recreational Facility and speak to all our Summer Staff members, who are in the midst of their two-week, intensive, Summer Staff Training session. Our Summer Staff members help to ensure that all of the programs are provided in a safe and supportive environment and that our campers have the most wonderful experience possible, helping to coordinate the Dining Hall and all of the meals; activity areas such as Arts & Crafts, Nature, Woodworking, Sports & Games, Adventure Ropes Course & Indoor Climbing Wall, and the Computer Shed; working as trained and certified Lifeguards, and helping to supervise and chaperone the campers in their cabins.

It’s going to be another busy weekend for all of us at Camp Good Days…this afternoon, through our Partners Against Violence (PAVE) Initiative, we will be participating in Project T.I.P.S. in the Conkey & Clifford Avenue neighborhood in Rochester. Project T.I.P.S. stands for Trust, Information, Programs & Services, and includes community agencies and law enforcement personnel working in selected neighborhoods to rebuild trust amongst residents and share information. From 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM, groups, including one Police Officer, one Fire Fighter, and two volunteers, will visit residents within the neighborhood to create conversations about quality of life issues, as well as to obtain information about the crime and violence that has plagued the neighborhood, in an anonymous format for residents. Project T.I.P.S. will continue from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM, with a community cookout and get together where residents can come and obtain more information from service providers and law enforcement agencies, as well as have some food and beverages, and have the opportunity to visit with their neighbors that they know and meet some neighbors they may not know.

I am so excited that Joe Szafranski, a Buffalo Police Department Officer and New York State National Guard Staff Sergeant will be stopping by Project T.I.P.S. around 4:00 PM, as part of his Ride 4 Cancer 2020. Joe lost his nephew to cancer this past January and over the last week he has biked from Buffalo to Albany and will return to Buffalo on Saturday. Through his ride, Joe is hoping to generate awareness and funds to help support Camp Good Days and CANCER MISSION 2020. Joe is a very special young man and I am thrilled that we can support and encourage him in this endeavor.

Also on Friday evening, a very special group of young men and women who are all dealing with cancer will arrive at the Recreational Facility as participants in the Young Adult Program. This program, open to young men and women ages 18-39, goes from Friday to Sunday and includes a Wine Class & Tasting with our good friend and Teddi Award recipient, Lorraine Hems; Tai Chi; Adventure Ropes Course; Arts & Crafts; Woodworking; Boat Rides; Camp Fire; Movie and more. Camp Good Days started the Young Adult Program in 2007 and it has continued to grow over the past few years, providing an opportunity for these young adults to be in a beautiful and safe environment, with the only people in the world who truly understand what they are going through…other young adults with cancer.

On Saturday, I will head to Geneva in the afternoon to attend my Grandson’s High School Graduation and then travel to Buffalo, along with my wife, Wendy, and a few of our Staff Members to attend the Buffalo Creative Black Tie Gala…There’s No Place Like Camp! Based on a Wizard of Oz theme this year, the Buffalo Gala is always a fantastic event and I am sure this year will not disappoint!

As a father, I am hoping to be able to catch up on some rest and relaxation on Sunday for Father’s Day…maybe catch a Red Wings game, before we return to the office on Monday for another busy week.

I hope you all have a safe and fun weekend – don’t forget to check out our website for more information about the many programs and services and special events and activities going on – please keep all those dealing with cancer in your thoughts and prayers - and I wish all of the dads out there a very HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Looking Like Summer!

It’s beginning to look a lot like summer and here at Camp Good Days that means we are heading into the time when we really shine and when we do what is most important – provide all of our summer programs for the many, many children, adults and families we serve!

Who would have believed that what was started 32 years ago, to provide a residential camping experience not available in our area at that time for my daughter, Teddi, and 62 other children with cancer (21 from Rochester, 21 from Buffalo, and 21 from Syracuse) would grow to become one of the largest organizations of its kind. In 1979, Camp Good Days was the fourth organization of its kind and over the years many of the programs and services started right here have been used as models for other cancer treatment centers and organizations around the world. We can all take great pride in all that we have been able to accomplish!

Since our inception we have served more than 43,000 campers from 22 states and 26 foreign countries – and we will add to that this summer with campers registered to attend from at least one new country and possibly some new states. By all reports and accounts, this summer is shaping up to be one of our largest ever, with more campers and volunteers registered and a number of our programs filled to capacity.

I have been blessed over the years to have so many special people come into my life and share their talents, time, expertise and love to help keep Teddi’s dream and memory alive and I know that this summer many of those same people, and some new friends, will be a part of the magic and spirit that is Camp Good Days.

I want to apologize to those of you who think it is about time that I updated this blog, but for those of you who know me, you know that my computer skills are something that I am working on improving and I haven’t had much time to work on those skills, as we have been extremely busy. We have recently taken down the old motel building at the Camp Good Days’ Recreational Facility and will soon begin construction on a new, small building on the main side of the property, which will provide some much needed additional accommodations. We are also working on making some improvements to one of the girls’ cabins and diligently preparing for our re-accreditation with the American Camp Association (ACA), which takes place every three years. Not to mention getting the facility ready for our campers and volunteers, training all of our volunteers and summer staff members, and holding special fundraising events, which help provide the funding to make our programs possible and available free of charge for the participants.

Some people have been asking why Camp Good Days has embarked on the initiative of Cancer Mission 2020…The End Of Cancer By The End Of The Decade, including my granddaughter who said to me, “Grandpa, isn’t that a daunting task?” and yes, it is a daunting task, but my response to her and to others is that I am sick and tired of going to funerals for people who have lost their battle to cancer. In 2009 I was shocked to have to attend nine funerals for our campers and I couldn’t understand why this was still happening. Why are 11,000 Americans dying from cancer every single week? These people don’t live in a vacuum, they are someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, and as was in my case – they are someone’s child! How is it that we have not found the answers to cancer? I started calling and talking to people from many of the major cancer treatment centers that I have met over the years and that I have great respect for and I was not prepared for what they were telling me. I started meeting with our Advisory Groups in the cities in which we have an office, as well as with members of our Board of Directors and we felt that there must be more than could be done and that we could help lead the way in finally finding the answers to this fight against cancer.

Recently, a group of MBA students from the Simon School at the University of Rochester completed a project on Camp Good Days regarding brand recognition and image and what they concluded was that while people know Camp Good Days and all the things we have done, we live in a much different world today than 32 years ago with the constant clutter of advertising, messaging, social media, etc. In their opinion, as an organization that has always been an industry leader, Cancer Mission 2020 was something that Camp Good Days could lead the way on and it would provide a new and unique way in which to break through that clutter and remain a leader and model well into the 21st century.

We announced and launched the Cancer Mission 2020 initiative and website in December 2010 and over the course of just a few months we have made some great strides in taking Cancer Mission 2020 from just an idea to a true initiative that is going strong and growing every day. Thousands have visited the site and are signing the Cancer Mission 2020 Petition, joining us in the belief that finding the answers to cancer needs to be brought to the forefront of our nation’s attention and agenda and that the answers will come only through cohesive and collaborative actions.

We have an active and involved Cancer Mission Committee that is working hard on plans and strategies for the Congressional District Cancer Summits, of which we have four scheduled for this August throughout Upstate New York, and the Cancer Mission 2020 College Campus Advocate Program, which involves having college students serve as ambassadors and advocates for Cancer Mission 2020 on their respective campuses. Many students are signed up representing colleges across New York State and beyond and they will have their first training and informational meeting next month. One of the goals is to have representation from all colleges and universities in Upstate New York by the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

Cancer Mission 2020 is something that Camp Good Days can help to lead and spearhead, as we have demonstrated over the years our unique ability to bring people together and truly make a difference by making things come to fruition without bureaucratic obstacles.

I clearly remember when we opened our own Recreational Facility on Keuka Lake, I invited some special friends to join us for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting. Murray Light, who at the time was the publisher of The Buffalo News, asked me afterwards what I wanted to do next and I responded that I hoped that one day we would be able to close the Camp because it would no longer be needed. That was in 1989 and as we look at the number of campers registered to take part in our programs this summer, the number of people being diagnosed with cancer, and the number of people losing their battle to cancer, the need for Camp Good Days has never been greater.

I know this post is long and I promise there will be briefer and much more frequent posts to come, but I wanted to take some time to not only update my blog, but share with all of you what is going on here at Camp Good Days and reiterate our commitment to our core mission and values. The mission of Camp Good Days and Special Times is to be internationally recognized as the premier service organization that enriches the lives of children and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life challenges. I want to assure you that all of us – our small staff and the thousands of volunteers who give so much of themselves in small ways and big ways to help make all that we do possible – are fully and completely committed to our mission.

Finally, please know that I have an open door policy – if you want to become involved in any of the programs, services, initiatives, volunteer opportunities, fundraising events, have ideas, suggestions, thoughts, concerns, or questions - my door and my phone line are open!