Monday, June 25, 2012

A Quick Update...

Things have been happening so quickly here at Camp Good Days that I have not had as much of a chance to stay on top of my blog as I would like, but I did want to take a few minutes to fill you all in on some of the things going on.

We hosted what is always one of my favorite programs, the Young Adult Program, the weekend of June 15-17, 2012.  We had a great group of young adults who are dealing with cancer, and this year we expanded the program so that they could bring along a significant other or close friend.  Fortunately, it is very rare for someone between the ages of 18-39 to be initially diagnosed with cancer.  However, these young people often fall through the cracks in regards to programs and services available to them.  They are too old to fit in with the children’s programs, but yet too young to fit in with the older adults.  These young people face challenges and issues about their futures – education and careers – health insurance -  relationships – just like all young adults, however these young people have the cloud of cancer to deal with as well.  Through the Young Adult Program, these young men and women can meet and connect with others who are going through similar situations and who are within their own age range.  Those that attended the program had a fantastic time and I consider it a true blessing that I had the opportunity to spend some time with them.

Last week started with a trip to Buffalo for the Parent Information Meeting, for those who have children that will be attending our residential camping programs this summer.  It was ironic as we pulled into the parking lot at St. Philip’s Church to see so many people lined up to get into the meeting.  All I could think about was 33 years ago we had a press conference at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, to announce that we were starting Camp Good Days and would be offering residential camping experiences for children dealing with cancer.  The only people in attendance at that press conference were the Public Relations Assistant from Roswell, my daughter Teddi and I, and my friend Tom Gosdeck who is originally from Buffalo and made the trip with us, and Tom’s parents.  Boy…how things have changed!

During the Parent Information Meeting we shared some of the plans and changes for this summer.  When we were driving back to Rochester, I was thinking about how much has changed over these past 33 years.  When I started Camp Good Days, Jimmy Carter was President and no one talked about cancer.  Cancer was one of the most feared words in the English language and there were no programs or services available for children or families dealing with cancer.  Today, one of the things that I am most proud of is that no one dealing with the diagnosis of cancer, whether it be themselves or someone in their family, has to face that battle alone, unless they choose to do so. 

A few things manage to stay constant over the years though.  Our goal, here at Camp Good Days has stayed the same over these 33 years.  We strive to give those children, who through no fault of their own have been dealt a difficult hand in life, a wonderful experience and a chance to get back some of the childhood that has been robbed from them.  And we provide them the opportunity to create some good days and special times with the only others in the world who can truly understand what they are going through – other children going through the same thing.

Thanks to so many generous people and the success of our special fundraising events, we have also been able to keep the promise I made 33 years ago that no family would ever be faced with the decision between paying their bills on time and sending their loved one to Camp Good Days.  All of our programs are provided free of charge for the participants so as not to place any additional financial burden on those families served.  Today, so many families have both Mom and Dad working, but with the diagnosis of cancer, if the family is fortunate to have both Mom and Dad, one of them, and the majority of the time it will be Mom, has to cut back on their work hours to become the primary caregiver.  However, the mortgage or rent payments stay the same, the car payments stay the same, and the rest of the bills stay the same.  Oftentimes, families will have to dip into their savings or even be forced to claim bankruptcy. I never wanted Camp Good Days to be a source of anxiety for families who are already facing so many challenges and I am so pleased that here we are, having served 43,000 campers from 22 states and 27 foreign countries, and we have been able to keep that promise.

In preparation for what is shaping up to be another full summer with hundreds of campers experiencing the magic and spirit of Camp Good Days, we are in the midst of our Summer Staff Training Program.  I had the chance to spend last Tuesday at Camp and speak to the summer staff members.  I am so impressed with their energy and excitement about making this summer one of the best yet! 

Last Friday afternoon, we welcomed Joe Szafranski, his bother-in-law, Mike, and Joe’s daughter, Jasmine, as they made a stop for lunch at the Camp Good Days’ Headquarters in Mendon, as part of their Ride4Cancer2020.  Joe departed on the Second Annual Ride4Cancer2020 from Buffalo on Saturday, June 16, 2012 and traveled from Buffalo to Albany and back.  Joe was riding to honor and remember his nephew, Jimmy, and to generate awareness and funds to support Camp Good Days and CANCER MISSION 2020…THE END OF CANCER BY THE END OF THE DECADE.  Joe, a Buffalo Police Officer and New York State National Guard Staff Sergeant, lost his 16 year old nephew to cancer in January 2011 and he is turning some of his pain and anger into action.  Last year Joe rode across the state to bring awareness to the importance of cancer research through Cancer Mission 2020 and raised $2,606 for Camp Good Days. Countless people also signed the Cancer Mission 2020 petition along the way.  It was great to see Joe, Mike, and Jasmine and we are all so grateful and appreciative of their continued support for the children and families at Camp Good Days and their efforts on behalf of CANCER MISSION 2020.  More information can be found at the Ride4Cancer2020 website,, on Facebook,, and on Twitter

Saturday morning, Wendy and I were up early as my granddaughter, Delaney, graduated from Gananda Central Schools.  It was a very nice ceremony and Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle did a great job as the commencement speaker.  On Saturday evening, we headed to Buffalo for the Annual Creative Black Tie Gala at the Buffalo Hyatt.  This year’s theme was CAMP OLYMPUS and once again this year, Lisa Donato from our Buffalo Office and her staff and amazing group of volunteers did an outstanding job. I would like to extend our thanks to Rob Lederman, for serving as Master of Ceremonies again this year, and to all those who attended and generously supported the event.  I would also like to congratulate Angelo Veanes, who is an outstanding volunteer and Camp Good Days’ Board Member and was honored as the recipient of the Spirit of Teddi Humanitarian Award.  It was a fun evening and the guests were truly remarkable in their support and generosity, helping us to continue being able to provide programs and services for all those families across Western New York who need them.

This is another busy week.  Today, I had breakfast with my good friend, Charlie Craddock and later I will be going to Blue Heron Hills Golf Course for the Rich Funke, Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament, from which a portion of the proceeds benefit the children and families at Camp Good Days.  Tomorrow we begin our Junior Good Days’ Program, both in the Rochester area and the Syracuse area.  This special day-camp program is for our youngest campers, ages 4-7, who are still too little to attend residential camp.  I know that our staff and volunteers, here in Rochester, and the staff and volunteers in Syracuse have a fun-filled four days planned for the campers.

I am really looking forward to this Wednesday evening, when Camp Good Days will host, “Life, Cancer, and the NFL…An Evening with NY Giants’ Mark Herzlich”.  Mark has a remarkable story that exemplifies courage and determination.  An All-American Linebacker at Boston College, Mark was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and went on to return to football, securing a place as a member of the New York Giants.

“Two years ago, I was told I might never walk again,’ Mark typed to his loyal followers on Twitter. “Just walked off the plane in Indy to play in the Super Bowl. Take that cancer!” One week later, Mark Herzlich found himself celebrating at midfield with his teammates as part of the 2011 Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

This special evening will provide attendees with the opportunity to hear at length from Mark, about his football career thus far and playing both in college and as part of a Super Bowl winning team, but also about his courageous battle with cancer.  The evening will be casual and fun, with stadium-style foods and for me personally, it will be a very special way to commemorate what would have been my daughter Teddi’s birthday.”

A small number of tickets are still available for this amazing event and can be purchased by calling the Camp Good Days’ Headquarters, 585-624-5555, or online at

It can be tough what we deal with here at Camp Good Days, and unfortunately this has hit very close to home these past few weeks.  So we ask that you please keep James, and all those battling this terrible disease, in your thoughts and prayers.

Until next time…wishing all of you a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kick Off To Summer!

It is hard to believe that May 2012 has come and gone!  Looking back, it was a very special month, which started on May 1, 2012 when I was honored to receive the Town of Pittsford’s Citizen of the Year Award.  We also held our first and very successful Project T.I.P.S. event of the 2012 season, on Friday, May 18, 2012 in Jones Park.  I was then honored to be presented with the Major Donald Holleder Award at the Press Radio Club’s Day of Champions Dinner on May 23, 2012, and that same evening, I was thrilled that our County Executive, Maggie Brooks, included CANCER MISSION 2020 in her State of the County Address. 

While all of these exciting things were happening for me, and for Camp Good Days, we have now come into June and the month started off with one of our own having to undergo surgery for cancer.  While we continue to pray for all those dealing with this terrible disease, we also are moving forward with what is our busiest time of the year.  Last Saturday we held the Volunteer Training Session at the Camp Good Days’ Recreational Facility, for all new volunteers.  That was followed by the training session for the Counselors in Training on Saturday and Sunday.  I was pleased to have had the opportunity to share some words with the new volunteers and to meet some of them personally. 

We were fortunate to have two old friends join us for the training.  Patrick Crough, who is retired from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, where he was a Major Crimes Investigator, spoke to all of the volunteers about the serious issues of child abuse and sexual abuse.  Following his retirement from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, Patrick wrote The Serpents Among Us: How to Protect Your Children From Sexual Predators.  A Police Investigator’s Perspective.  Patrick had everyone’s attention and we were very fortunate to have him share his many years of experience and knowledge with our volunteers.  I have known Patrick for many years, as he was the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department representative for the Project Exile Advisory Board, when that program was in its infancy.  Patrick is a true law-enforcement professional and both he and his wife, Suzanne, have become dear friends to Camp Good Days. 

Another good friend, Scott Vallow, also made the trip to the Recreational Facility, along with his two sons.  Scott spent many years as the Goalkeeper for the Rochester Rhinos, and is now an Assistant Coach with the team.  Scott shared his vision about teamwork and the importance of giving back to those less fortunate.  Scott represents everything that is good in sports and I so much appreciated him making the trip, as he did so knowing that he had to get back to Rochester and to Sahlen’s Stadium by 5:00 PM, for the Rochester Rhinos’ game against the Richmond Kickers.  Scott has been so generous to the children and families at Camp Good Days.  He has taken the time to visit during the Doing A World Of Good Program each summer, with the Rochester Rhinos, and donates proceeds from his various soccer camps and trainings, done through his Train Like A Champion Program, and proceeds from the annual Soccer in the Sand Tournament held in August.

As a special highlight for everyone at Volunteer Training, the Conesus Lake Riders and the participants in the Annual Ridin’ for a Reason Motorcycle Ride stopped at Camp on Saturday afternoon, as they were making their way from Arkport, New York to Dansville, New York.  More than 120 motorcycles came through and the riders had a chance to take a break and visit with the volunteers and staff.  Special thanks to the Conesus Lake Riders for their continued support and generosity and to all those who participated in this annual event, from which all proceeds benefit the children and families we serve. 

This past Monday, some of us headed to Buffalo to attend the Return Volunteer Training session and it was great to see so many people excited about coming back to volunteer at Camp Good Days this summer.

On Tuesday, we held our 29th Annual Tournament of Love at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford.  By all accounts we had a successful event, despite some challenges along the way!  We were blessed with a beautiful day with weather perfect for golfing; the course was in great shape; the staff at Monroe Golf Club went above and beyond in creating a hospitable and pleasant venue for all the participants; and I have only heard positive comments about the event, which is a reflection of the hard work of our Special Events Coordinator, Nicole.  It was so nice to see so many people enjoying the day, all in support of the children and families we serve, and we were honored that our County Executive, Maggie Brooks, and our County District Attorney, Sandra Doorley both took the time out of their hectic schedules to be a part of the event.  Special thanks go out to our event Chairpersons, Paul & Kirsten Estabrooks and the entire committee for all of their hard work and dedication; as well as to Rich Funke, Anchor at NEWS10NBC for serving as our Master of Ceremonies and Sister Francella Quinn for providing the Invocation at dinner, and to all of our sponsors, donors, supporters, volunteers, and participants.

One of the challenges we faced with the Tournament of Love this year was that Mark Herzlich, Linebacker with the Super Bowl Champion NY Giants, was originally scheduled to appear as the Special Guest for the event.  Unfortunately, Head Coach Coughlin called a mandatory practice for this week and as a player under contract, Mark has no choice but to participate in these mandatory practices.  However, Mark wanted to honor his commitment to Camp Good Days and has agreed to come to Rochester for a special evening on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.  “Life, Cancer, and the NFL…An Evening With NY Giants’ Mark Herzlich”   will be held at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at the Rochester Plaza Hotel, 70 State Street, Downtown Rochester. 

Mark’s story is one that exemplifies courage and determination.  An All-American Linebacker at Boston College, Mark was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and went on to return to football, securing a place as a member of the New York Giants.

“Two years ago, I was told I might never walk again,’ Mark typed to his loyal followers on Twitter. “Just walked off the plane in Indy to play in the Super Bowl. Take that cancer!” One week later, Mark Herzlich found himself celebrating at midfield with his teammates as part of the 2011 Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

As oftentimes has occurred over the years, you come to realize that there is a reason for the way things happen.  Although we were disappointed that Mark was unable to make it to Rochester for our Tournament of Love, we are thrilled that he is willing to honor his commitment to the children and families at Camp Good Days.  This special evening will provide attendees with the opportunity to hear at length from Mark, about his football career thus far and playing both in college and as part of a Super Bowl winning team, but also about his courageous battle with cancer.  The evening will be casual and fun, with stadium-style foods and for me personally, it will be a very special way to commemorate what would have been my daughter Teddi’s birthday.

Tickets for “Life, Cancer, and the NFL…An Evening With NY Giants’ Mark Herzlich” are a perfect and unique Father’s Day Gift or Graduation Gift!  What better way to show you care than to send your loved one to this one-of-a-kind evening, and at the same time know that you are helping the children and families at Camp Good Days!  Tickets to attend are $60.00 per person are available by contacting Camp Good Days at 585-624-5555 or 800-785-2135 or may be purchased online at

Also on Tuesday, we kicked off the Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle.  Once again, through the generous support of Jay and Jay Jay Vanderstyne, Vanderstyne Toyota, and Toyota Motors, we have been given this amazing opportunity and 100% of every dollar raised through the sale of these raffle tickets will benefit the children and families at Camp Good Days.  The drawing will take place on New Year’s Eve, Monday, December 31, 2012 and the prize is a 2012 Toyota Corolla-S Model, featuring sunroof, cruise control, Bluetooth, power windows, and power locks.  The MSRP of the vehicle is $20,225.00.  The 2012 Toyota Corolla offers the ideal blend of comfort, value and safety.  The Toyota Corolla has remarkable performance and fuel efficiency, plus an impressive list of safety features. 

Tickets for the Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle are $25.00 each and may be purchased by contacting Camp Good Days at 585-624-5555 or 800-785-2135 or online at  Tickets may be purchased using cash, check, or credit card.  The prize winner must be at least 18 years of age.

This week will come to a close with a meeting on Friday morning of the Project T.I.P.S. Committee, with Rochester Police Chief, James Sheppard and many of our law enforcement and community partners, where we will be discussing plans for the events scheduled for July and August.  I will then be heading out to Camp, as we have a full weekend ahead.

On Sunday, June 10, 2012 we will officially kick off the 2012 season.  We will be having a very special Day of Dedications and I am so pleased that as part of the ceremonies on Sunday, we will cut the ribbon and dedicate the newest building, the Corey Cabin, in loving memory of our dear friend and supporter, Lyle Corey, who passed away unexpectedly in the summer of 2010.  This new building was constructed with much donated labor and materials and was done so under the guidance, management and leadership of LeChase Construction, where Lyle worked for many years.  The Corey Cabin is a beautiful new building and was much needed to help us accommodate the space we lost when we tore down the old motel building last spring.  I am so happy that some of Lyle’s family and friends and some of those who helped to make this building a reality, will be able to join us on Sunday.

We will also have our Ring of Honor Induction Ceremony on Sunday, during which we will unveil the bricks in the Ring of Honor area, for those who were recognized as 2011 Ring of Honor Inductees at the Night of Gratitude held in March.  Our newest class of inductees includes: Mary Pat Allen; Joe Cascio; Sarah Clapper; Gary Amendola and the Gary Amendola Fun Fund at Woods, Oviatt; Ron Dougherty; Will & Muriel Herzog; the New York State Police; the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department; the Rochester Police Department; Stacey & Chris Ruisi; Amy Schmidt; Cameron Tebbi, MD; St. Philip’s Church; Sahlen’s Packing Company; and the Vinette Family. 

Also on the agenda for Sunday, we will be dedicating the Basketball Court in honor of our dear friend, John “The Gov” Gilmore, who has been a part of the Camp Good Days’ family for many, many years and was instrumental in the success of the Tournament of Love for many years.  We will be dedicating a special bench, in memory of Ramon Santiago, who was an internationally recognized artist and a true friend to the children and families at Camp Good Days.  Ramon lost his own battle with cancer more than 10 years ago.

We will also be having a special service and dedicating the Outdoor Chapel in memory of Father David Ambuske.  From 1982 through last summer, Father Ambuske would come down to Camp on the first evening of each program session to officiate over the optional Prayer Service, which has become a tradition and a part of the customs at Camp Good Days.  Unfortunately, Father Ambsuke lost his battle to heart disease last year, shortly before the holiday season.

Last but certainly not least, Wendy and I will be celebrating our 17th Wedding Anniversary on Sunday and like most years, we will be spending it together doing something with Camp Good Days.  It is also Wendy’s Dad’s birthday on Sunday, so we wish him a very happy one and many more!

As you can tell, Sunday promises to be a very busy day for all of us at Camp Good Days as we officially begin our 33rd summer of providing residential camping programs for children and families whose lives have been touched by cancer.  But it will be a day to remember and to honor some of the very special people that have been a part of the Camp Good Days’ family over the years.

Through this adventure that has been Camp Good Days I have had the opportunity to meet so many special people – like Father David Ambuske, Lyle Corey, John Gilmore, Ramon Santiago and many, many more.

Another special person that has been a part of our family is moving…Judy Immeosoete is moving across the country to be closer to her family.  Judy, better known as Mother Nature at Camp Good Days, has been volunteering for many years both at the programs for children dealing with cancer and for the Women’s Oncology Programs.  Last Friday, Judy stopped by Camp, where some of her friends were getting ready for the Volunteer Training.  They all had the chance to spend some time together and to say goodbye.  Judy read them all a poem she had written about Camp Good Days, and everyone was so touched by her words.  Wendy shared that poem with me, and I leave you all, for now, by sharing it with you…

There was a child, a small little girl
who was ill
then lost her chance for a life so full
of laughter and joy and parties galore
but gave to us the chance to be
friends of the lasting kind
who support each other regardless of time.
Teddi brought us together, I didn’t know her, and most of us can say the same,
we are friends because we heard her name.
We laugh, we cry, we come back for more,
We have touched each other in ways so mysterious
there were times when we laughed ourselves delirious
and cried…but never asked why,
because we knew.
This child called Teddi gave to us a friendship so dear
my life changed the day I came here
my stuff in tow
and because of you my friends my life did grow.
I will have memories of the times we spent together
of the love I have for each of you
because of a child, a little girl, I never knew.
I have been blessed with friendship by all of you.