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, http://www.ride4cancer2020.com/, on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/Ride4Cancer, and on Twitter https://twitter.com/Ride4Cancer2020.
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 www.campgooddays.org.
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!