Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Camp Good Days' Update

As I have said many times, there is no real quiet time here at Camp Good Days.  Things have been crazy since my last post, but I thought I should take a few minutes and catch everyone up.

I can’t thank enough all those who came to the Pittsford Town Board Meeting on May 1, 2012 as I was presented with the 2011 Citizen of the Year Award.  It was a complete surprise when I received the call from Pittsford Town Supervisor, Bill Carpenter, to let me know that I had been selected for this very special honor and to hear that my childhood friend, Bob Michaels, had nominated me.  I headed to the Pittsford Library that evening, expecting a short presentation and a couple of close friends to be there.  I was truly overwhelmed by the number of people who took the time out of their evening, for a presentation that was not part of an event or dinner, to come and show their support.  It meant so much to me and the chance to see so many friends, some of whom I have not seen in many years, was something I won’t soon forget.  My gratitude and thanks go to Supervisor Bill Carpenter, the Pittsford Town Board, and all those who attended that evening. 

On Saturday, May 5, 2012, Camp Good Days hosted our 12th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Auction Dinner at the Rochester Plaza Hotel.  The event was a sellout again this year, and event Chairman, Peter Parts, along with Ron Dougherty, David Male, Jayne Van Zile, Val Migliore, and the entire organizing committee did another outstanding job.  Matthew Chung, who again served as our Auctioneer and my good friend, Rich Funke, who served as our Master of Ceremonies, both did their part in making the evening special for all the attendees.  The people at the Rochester Plaza could not have been more accommodating.  Special thanks go out to Scott Greene, Head Football Coach at the University of Rochester and his players who came to our office in Mendon that Friday to help us move all of the wine to the Rochester Plaza; Athletic Director, Anthony Bianchi and all of the student athletes from the Aquinas Institute of Rochester who helped to set everything up on Saturday morning and afternoon; and to the Victor Football players and Booster Club, who spent Saturday evening helping to get all of the wine and auction items to the winning bidders.  An event of this magnitude would not be possible without all of their help and support!  The highlight of the evening came when Katie Bess, who was a camper here at Camp Good Days and now serves as a volunteer, spoke about her battle with cancer and what being a part of the Camp Good Days’ family has meant to her and the impact we have had on her life.  Following Katie’s remarks, more than 95 people stood up to be counted in the Camper Call.  It was unbelievable to see person after person after person stand up and pledge their support.  We do not yet have all of the final figures, but I am confident that this event was another resounding success and that we have reached our goals.

Last Wednesday afternoon, we had the second of three meetings for the committee that has been assembled by Dr. Byron Kennedy, Deputy Director of the Monroe County Health Department and I, in regards to the plan we are developing to address cancer in Monroe County, where cancer is the leading cause of death.  We had another great meeting and it is truly exciting to have some great people at the table who are willing to lend their ideas, support and hard work to put this plan into place.  We will be presenting the plan to County Executive, Maggie Brooks this summer and once it is final, we will make that plan available on our CANCER MISSION 2020 website, http://www.cancermission2020.com/.  If you have not yet checked out the website or have not checked back recently, please do so.  On the site not only can you sign the CANCER MISSION 2020 Petition, lending your support to our efforts, but you can see the CANCER MISSION 2020 Legislation, HR 5283, which has been introduced into Congress by Congressman Tom Reed.  And again, I ask you to share this site and the petition with your contacts so that we can continue our progress forward in putting an end to cancer by the end of the decade!

On Friday and Saturday, May 11-12, 2012, we officially kicked off our 33rd summer at Camp Good Days.  We hosted a group of young people from the Teen Empowerment and Pathways to Peace programs for a special overnight.  We had some beautiful weather and I think the participants had a good two days, as I had the chance to speak to group and also to listen in on some of the workshops they attended.  Overall it was a good weekend and the Recreational Facility looks great! 

This past Friday, May 18, 2012, we held the first Project T.I.P.S. event for the 2012 season.  By all accounts this was a great kick off for the season.  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, 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.  The groups also provide residents with information and contacts they can use regarding services that range from health care issues (cancer, diabetes, heart disease) to reporting information for things such as crime, vandalism, and fire.  Project T.I.P.S. continues 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.  Since its inception in the summer of 2008, Project T.I.P.S. has quickly evolved into a community-wide effort with support and participation from our Partners Against Violence Everywhere (PAVE) Initiative and Project Exile Advisory Board, as well as the Rochester Police Department, Rochester Fire Department, City of Rochester Recreation Department, New York State Police, New York State Parole, Pathways to Peace, Monroe County Probation, Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, Monroe County Department of Human Services, Humane Society at Lollypop Farm, Rise Up Rochester, and numerous other law enforcement and community agencies.

Jones Park was an ideal location, we had a great turnout of community residents and most importantly, the children from the area had the chance to get something to eat, ride the horses, see the different demos and displays, and have a safe and fun afternoon.  I think I speak on behalf of all the participating agencies when I say we are looking forward to the upcoming Project T.I.P.S. events planned for this summer. 

On Friday evening, Wendy and I headed to Sahlen’s Stadium to take her Dad to the Rochester Rhinos’ game, during which they tied the Dayton Dutch Lions.  We are so thankful to have been given the opportunity, again this season, to have the Camp Good Days’ Quarters for Cancer promotion at each of the soccer games held at Sahlen’s Stadium.  Quarters for Cancer includes staff and volunteers collecting donations as attendees come into the stadium and we have an informational table set up just inside Gate D.  We are still looking for volunteers to help at the games and if you are interested, please contact Laura Osborn at 585-624-5555 or losborn@campgooddays.org and she will be happy to send you the game schedule and get you signed up!

On Saturday morning, Wendy and I were up bright and early and headed to Camp, as we also had our first session of the Women’s Oncology Program, the Women’s Arts & Crafts Program, taking place this past Friday – Sunday.  It was so nice that all of the women who registered for the program were actually able to attend.  I had the chance to observe the various activities and speak with some of the participants who were all having a good time.  I also had the chance to meet with some visitors from the Children’s Cancer Center in Tampa, who flew up to New York to visit Camp Good Days.  I met these folks last month during the Annual Florida Fun Fest and we are all excited to be working together on plans to have some of the children they serve attend our programs here at Camp Good Days and they have also lent their support and are assisting us in the efforts for CANCER MISSION 2020. 

On Sunday I took care of some personal things at home and come Monday morning, Wendy and I were back on the road to Camp.  We met with some visitors from the Harlem Boys & Girls Club and discussed some ways in which we might be able to collaborate, by having some of their participants who would qualify, attend some of our camping programs, as well as arranging for a special trip for some of our campers to visit the New York City area.  We also went with them to view some land they have had donated, located outside of Bath, New York and gave them some ideas and suggestions as to how they best might develop that land. 

We made it back to Rochester in time to head to Frontier Field for the Rochester Red Wings game.  It was the Rochester / Monroe County Youth Board’s Bullying Prevention Night at the game.  Wendy is the President of the Board for the Rochester / Monroe County Youth Board and she had to attend and I wanted to lend my support. 

This morning I had breakfast with an old friend and longtime Camp Good Days’ supporter, Jim Capellupo.  I spent a couple hours in the office and then went to NEWS10NBC to tape an interview about CANCER MISSION 2020 with Ray Levato for the Rochester In Focus show.  Later this afternoon we met with Jay and Jay Jay Vanderstyne from Vanderstyne Toyota to finalize details and logistics for the 2012 Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle.  We are beyond grateful that because of the generosity of the Vanderstynes and Toyota Motors we will be able to conduct a raffle again this year.  Tickets will be available very soon so check out our website, www.campgooddays.org for more details! 

This evening we have a Training Session for returning volunteers in the Rochester area and we are looking forward to seeing everyone and sharing our plans and goals for the summer camping programs.  There is also an Open Cup series game for the Rochester Rhinos so the Quarters for Cancer table will be set up at Sahlen’s Stadium. 

Tomorrow morning we have our weekly Staff Meeting and a meeting of our Tournament of Love Committee and then I personally am looking forward to heading to the Rochester Riverside Convention Center for the Rochester Press Radio Club’s Day of Champions Dinner, where I will be receiving the Major Donald Holleder Award.  I say I am receiving this award, but truly I am accepting it on behalf of the thousands of people who have been involved with Camp Good Days, supported our many efforts, and helped to keep Teddi’s memory and legacy alive, because it is all of them who have helped to make all that we have accomplished possible – as I say often – I am just the pretty face! 

As you can see, it’s very busy.  I am exhausted already and it’s only Tuesday!  Wishing all of you a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Memorable Florida Fun Fest

Of all the things that I get to do, one that never loses its enjoyment is the Annual Florida Fun Fest trip that we take each year with some of our campers.  Having just returned last night, I can say that this year was another memorable trip.  We did things a little bit differently this year, as in the past we have taken the trip around Election Day or just after the holidays in January, but this year we were in Central Florida from April 25th – 30th.  In past years, we have spent the majority of time in the Orlando area, but this time we flew into Tampa and spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Tampa and St. Petersburg.  We stayed at the Tradewinds Island Resort and the weather was absolutely beautiful and the campers had the opportunity to spend some time on the beach and in the Gulf of Mexico, which is something that they won’t soon forget. 

On Wednesday evening, we were the special guests of Steve & Patty DiGennaro and some of their neighbors for a cookout dinner.  They are true friends and such wonderful supporters of the children and families at Camp Good Days and once again their hospitality and kindness was above and beyond any expectations.  Following dinner, we all headed to Tropicana Field to watch the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Anaheim Angels, which was a great experience, as it was the first time that many of the campers had the chance to attend a Major League Baseball game.

On Thursday morning, we all got on a boat and did a Dolphin Watch Boat Tour.  Again, it was a beautiful day and I am so pleased that we all got the chance to see a number of dolphins.  On Thursday afternoon I had the chance to meet with some people from the Children’s Cancer Center in Tampa and we had a great discussion about some ways in which we can collaborate on providing some unique experiences for the children and families we all serve.  I also shared CANCER MISSION 2020 with them and I am so pleased that they are interested in helping and supporting us in those efforts.

Later that day was extra special for me because while the campers and volunteers played on the beach and in the Gulf, I had the chance to see an old and dear friend, Dr. Martin Klemperer.  Dr. Klemperer is someone who was instrumental in helping me to start Camp Good Days and over the years has helped me to keep my daughter Teddi’s dream and spirit alive.

I will always remember the first meeting we ever had in regards to starting Camp Good Days, which was held at the Rochester Academy for Medicine on East Avenue, and attended by more than 100 people.  I had invited Dr. Royer to speak at the meeting, as he was the doctor who started a similar program in Michigan and I had seen a story on The Today Show about his camp, which was what started me on this journey.  After the meeting, I felt like I was on top of the mountain, but as I was taking Dr. Royer to the airport for his return trip to Kalamazoo, he said we had a great turnout at the meeting and he was confident that we would be able to raise the necessary funds, recruit the volunteers, and we certainly had the children that would benefit, but that he thought we might have difficulty in finding a doctor that would be willing to commit the time that would be necessary, especially if it was not their idea.  The three other programs that had been established prior to Camp Good Days were all started by doctors.  I went from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the valley because although I knew there were many things that I could do, I was not a doctor.  Shortly thereafter, Dr. Klemperer came into my life and as they say, the rest is history.  Dr. Klemperer was always there for me in the early years and even after he moved from working at the University of Rochester Medical Center to Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and later to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, he continued to come back to Camp Good Days each summer, with his wife, Helen, at their own expense, to serve as our Camp Doctor.  Dr. Klemperer is 81 years old now, dealing with some of his own health challenges, and unable to make it to Camp Good Days each summer, but it was such a pleasure and so nice to have had the opportunity to see this very special angel to the children of Camp Good Days and to spend some time with him, catching up, reminiscing, and sharing some of the good times we had together.

On Friday morning, we checked out of the Tradewinds and headed to Busch Gardens for the day.  Later, we went for dinner and I had the chance to catch up and spend some time with two old friends.  Joan Bell, whose husband, Theo, played in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a great friend and supporter who passed away a few years ago at much too young an age, met us for dinner, as did Dr. Cameron Tebbi who I have known for 33 years. 

When Dr. Tebbi and I first met, Camp Good Days was just beginning and he was the chief of the Adolescent Oncology Unit at Roswell Park Cancer Center.  He left Roswell to become the Medical Director, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Research Laboratories at
St. Joseph’s Children's Hospital in Tampa, and now serves as a Professor of Pediatrics and Director, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the University of South Florida in Tampa.  Over the years when we have taken our Annual Florida Fun Fest trip and ever needed medical support, Dr. Tebbi has always been there for us.  He is an amazing doctor and person, who holds several patents and has spent 41 years studying, researching, and treating those with leukemia.  Currently, Dr. Tebbi is working to secure much needed funding, as he feels that we will be able to predict, in babies, a future diagnosis of leukemia, and ultimately develop a vaccine for leukemia.  He is someone who has truly devoted his life and work to finding the answers to cancer and he too supports and wants to help us in the efforts of CANCER MISSION 2020. 

On the topic of CANCER MISSION 2020, I got some great news while I was out of town last week that legislation has been completed and will be introduced by Congressman Tom Reed.  This legislation is a result of the CANCER MISSION 2020 Congressional District Cancer Summits that were held last August in the Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse areas.  We are also moving ahead with development of the plan to address cancer in Monroe County, where cancer is now the leading cause of death.  Our first of three, small, working meetings – this one focused on prevention – is being held tomorrow afternoon.  I am excited that we are moving forward with this important initiative and I look forward to sharing more about these meetings and the plan, in the weeks to come. 

Another one of the highlights for me during our trip was having Tamara Kerbs join us.  Tamara has faced her own battle with cancer and became part of the Camp Good Days’ family when she attended our Junior Good Days’ Program in Rochester.  She later attended the Teddi’s Team / Doing A World Of Good residential camping programs, and served as a member of our Summer Staff.  Tamara completed her undergraduate work at Binghamton University and now lives in Central Florida, where she just completed her Master’s Degree and as soon as she passes her boards, Tamara will be Nurse Practitioner.  Tamara spent a few days with us during the trip, volunteering her time to help Michelle Roach, our Medical Director and I am so proud of her and the beautiful young lady she has become! 

On Friday evening, we made the bus trip from Tampa to Orlando and checked into the Seralago Suites.  On Saturday, we all headed to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, where we are always treated like special VIP guests.  The staff there goes out of their way to greet our campers and provide them with a fantastic and fun-filled day in their theme parks.  On Sunday, my good friends, John and Linda Mongoven, along with some of their friends and neighbors in the Hunter’s Creek Community, hosted our group for a picnic and had Chief Rowley entertain and educate the group with his amazing Snake Show.  We all then headed to Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios for the rest of the afternoon and evening. 

On Monday, we checked out of the Seralago and headed to the airport for the trip back home to Upstate New York.  I know that this trip will be one that the campers and the volunteers will remember for the rest of their lives and for me, I was like the proud Grandfather, watching the campers, volunteers and staff all have a great time, interacting, bonding and making some great memories together, and I am so pleased that Camp Good Days is able to make this experience possible.  Of course this trip would not be possible without the amazing support of some special people. 

This trip has taken place since 1985 and was originated when Rochester businessman, Wayne Meisenzahl, who was completing his own treatment for cancer, 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 trip. 

In addition, the trip is made possible through the Teddi Project at Camp Good Days.  The Teddi Project is supported through the annual Dance for Love, a 24-hour dance marathon at St. John Fisher College.  The 30th Annual Dance for Love took place this past February 17-18, 2012.  The trip is also supported through the Sugarman Smiles Fund, which was established at Camp Good Days by local businessman, Gary Sugarman, and is a wish-fulfillment program for those dealing with cancer, over age 18; as well as the Gary Amendola Fun Fund, which 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.  The Gary Amendola Fun Fund provides the means for Camp Good Days to host special outings, activities and events throughout the year.

I am now back in the office and that is all the time there is for reflection because it is really busy as we put all of the final details into place for the Wine Auction Dinner, which takes place this Saturday, May 5, 2012 at the Rochester Plaza Hotel.  Over the past 12 years, the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and Auction Dinner has become the largest fundraising event, in the Rochester area, to benefit the children and families at Camp Good Days and I know that because of the hard work and dedication of the committee members, this year is sure to be another great success! 

While going through the items in my office this morning, I was so pleased to see the Exceptional Citizen Award, which was given to me by Shannon McVeigh and the Rochester Elks Lodge #24.  I am sorry that I could not personally accept the award, as I was out of town for the Florida Fun Fest trip, but I greatly appreciate the honor.  Tonight, I will be receiving the Town of Pittsford’s Citizen of the Year Award and I am truly humbled and honored to have been nominated and selected for this award.

Right now, I am drained, both physically and emotionally, but it was a wonderful trip and I feel so blessed to be recognized and honored for what we are doing here at Camp Good Days, but as I always say – I am just the pretty face!  It is the amazing staff members and the hundreds of dedicated volunteers who make it possible for us to continue providing the good days and special times to the many children and families who need them!