Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Sad and Difficult Week

This past week has been a very difficult one, where in the midst of the excitement and challenges of the final weeks of our 33rd summer of programs, we have lost two very special members of our Camp Good Days’ family.

Last Wednesday, while at our Recreational Facility, I learned that a very special friend of mine, and someone who had been instrumental in helping me to start Camp Good Days, had passed away.  Former Monroe County Legislator and Family Court Judge, Anthony F. Bonadio died last week after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. 

Judge Bonadio was always the first to stand up for young people in our community and while most would use Family Court as a stepping stone to bigger positions, Judge Bonadio was honored and pleased to serve as a Judge in Family Court for two full terms (20 years).

Judge Bonadio was a good husband to his wife, Marilyn, a good father to his four children, and loving grandfather to his grandchildren.  In addition, he was a very special friend to the many, many children and families at Camp Good Days and was someone who could always be counted on to help out. 

In the early hours of this Tuesday morning, Melinda Gippe Andrus lost her battle to cancer.  Over the past 33 years, since I started Camp Good Days and Special Times, following the diagnosis of my youngest daughter, Teddi, with a malignant brain tumor, I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people.  People of all ages, who in small ways and big ways, have had an impact on my life and I like to believe that each one of them has left me with something that has helped me to become the person I am today. 

Des Stone, the former Editor of the Democrat & Chronicle’s Editorial Page once described Camp Good Days as a place where the human spirit soars and a place that brings out the very best in mankind. 

Some of those that truly exemplify the very best in mankind are the children I have met who are forced to grow up and become adults much too quickly.  No child age nine, ten, 12 or 13 should have to come face to face with their own mortality.  One of the cruelest parts of being a child diagnosed with cancer is that it robs the child of that very special time in all of our lives called childhood.  That time when you have a sense of invincibility and feel like you will live forever.

Melinda, affectionately known as Mel, was one of the young people I have been blessed to know and she first came into my life 25 years ago when she was originally diagnosed with cancer at the age of 13.  Mel came to Camp Good Days first as a camper and stayed as a volunteer.  She carried her battle with cancer throughout her life, with some obvious physical and visible signs and when she looked in the mirror or met new people, everyone could tell that she had gone through a difficult experience and some challenges.  However, Mel never let cancer define who she was.  She finished high school and went on to college.  She passed her nursing boards and worked as a nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital, working her way up to being a supervising nurse.  She married an exceptional gentleman who became her life partner and best friend.  Despite all that was going on in her life, Mel always found time to care for others.  I was always so impressed with her many accomplishments so when we had an opening on the Camp Good Days’ Board of Director’s I invited Mel to serve.  Not only was she an involved and active member of the Board, she continued to volunteer at the many sessions of our Women’s Oncology Program, bringing her love of jewelry-making and spending the day with the women teaching them how to make beautiful earrings, necklaces and bracelets, and she brought all of her own materials and supplies for them to use.

Mel was someone who was my hero.  No matter how bad or challenging of a day I had, when I was with her, she always made me feel better, and I am confident she had that effect on all those she came into contact with.  She truly helped you to look at things and keep them all in the proper perspective. 

This past February, Mel’s cancer returned with a vengeance and this past week SHE made the decision to stop the treatment and have hospice care in her home.  I was honored that her husband called me on Monday and asked if I would visit her that afternoon.  I am so grateful I was able to do that and that I had the chance to hold hands, one more time, with this gentle and extraordinary young lady, the day before she left this world. 

Melinda will never know how she touched so, so many lives through being an inspiration for others by the way she handled the difficult hand in life she was dealt, through her work as a nurse, and through her giving spirit as a volunteer.  She impacted my life so much and I will carry our friendship and those things we shared with me all the days of my life.  Our community and our Camp Good Days’ family has lost a shining star and I have lost a very special angel. 

I ask that each of you keep Judge Bonadio and Melinda’s families and friends, as well as all of the children, families, and volunteers who are a part of Camp Good Days in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer Update

Where does the time go?  It is so hard to believe that we are in mid-August already and that the summer residential camping programs, here at Camp Good Days, are winding down in the next couple of weeks.  So much has happened this summer and so much is still yet to come, but the time just seems to be going faster and faster.

I am happy to report that we have had an amazing summer, thus far, and hundreds of campers have had the opportunity to experience the magic and spirit of Camp Good Days, firsthand.  We just completed the annual Doing A World Of Good Program, which is for children with cancer from countries around the world who come for two weeks and are joined by two different groups of children with cancer from the United States, each group coming for one week.  This summer, we welcomed campers and chaperones from Mexico, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, Germany, Ethiopia, Czech Republic and Slovakia.  We also had a group of young people with cancer from Central Florida join us.  Our international campers and chaperones had an amazing two weeks at Camp Good Days, as did the campers from the United States.  A few of the highlights included a visit from the Rochester Rhinos Soccer Team; a visit from the New York State Police Helicopter and the New York State Police K9 Unit; and visits from the Rochester Police Department’s Mounted Patrol and Scuba Units.

On Wednesday, July 25, 2012, we hosted our Annual Summer Open House and we were so thrilled that New York State Lieutenant Governor, Robert Duffy, along with his wife Barb; as well as Joseph D’Amico, Superintendant of the New York State Police, and his wife, Judy; New York State Police Captain, Michael Cerretto and his wife, Lisa; Craig Doran, Administrative Judge for  the Seventh Judicial District of New York; Monroe County District Attorney, Sandra Doorley; Yates County District Attorney, Jason Cook; Pediatric Oncologist, Dr. David Korones; as well as my good friends, Steve & Patty DiGennaro and many, many others, took the time out of their busy schedules to visit and spend some time getting to know the campers and volunteers.  Lieutenant Governor Duffy surprised us all when he presented us with a very special Citation on behalf of New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo.

On Friday, July 27, 2012, our international campers and chaperones came to the Camp Good Days’ Headquarters in Mendon, where we had a picnic dinner and a special welcome from Monroe County Executive, Maggie Brooks, and City of Rochester Deputy Mayor, Leonard Redon.  They both presented the group with Proclamations, on behalf of Monroe County and City of Rochester, and we are so thankful that they both took the time to come out and meet our guests.  Following the picnic, everyone headed to the Rochester Rhinos game at Sahlen’s Stadium, where the campers were excited to see the players they had met at Camp a few days before and we were all happy that the Rhinos won the game! 

For some of our campers from the Rochester area who were not participating in the Doing A World Of Good Program, we were once again invited to be the special guests of the Buffalo Bills Community Relations Department for Buffalo Bills Training Camp at St. John Fisher College.  The group of campers that attended last Thursday’s afternoon practice had a great time watching practice and playing in the interactive area, and were thrilled to have the chance to get autographs from some of their favorite players, including Ryan Fitzpatrick and Marcell Dareus.  Special thanks to Gretchen Geitter, Vice President of Community Relations, her staff, and the players, for making our campers’ visit to Buffalo Bills Training Camp one they will remember for a long time!

This week we have our younger campers who are participating in Teddi’s Team, which is for those children, ages 8-12, who are dealing with cancer.  So far the weather has been beautiful and the kids are having a great time.  Next week we will host Camp B&ST, which is for children, ages 8-17, who have lost a parent or sibling to cancer within the past three years.  Next weekend we will have the Brain Tumor Family Retreat, which is a weekend camping retreat for families wherein one member is dealing with a malignant brain tumor.

We will finish our residential camping programs for children with the Camp Good Days / Rochester City School District Leadership Program, which is for students from the Rochester City School District, who are making the transition from elementary school to middle school this coming September. The primary goal of this special program is to give the students an overall experience that includes a variety of social and educational activities and special guest interactions, which are designed to help prepare them for their Middle School and High School years and to provide them with some of the knowledge and tools they will need to successfully navigate their future.  During this program, which is a collaboration between the Camp Good Days’ Partners Against Violence Everywhere (PAVE) Initiative and the Rochester City School District, we like to have special guests, who are life models and leaders within our community to come and speak with the participants and share some of their experiences and words of wisdom and I am so happy that the US Marshal for the Western District of New York, Charles Salina; Monroe County District Attorney, Sandra Doorley; and Reverand Lawrence Hargrave from Asbury First United Methodist Church are all willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to visit the program and speak to the participants.

We also have a few more sessions of the Women’s Oncology Program coming up later this month and in September.

While our camping programs are in full swing, much work continues on a variety of activities and events and it is really hard to imagine that the football season is about to get underway.  Plans are beginning to come together for this year’s COURAGE BOWL, the annual football game between the St. John Fisher College Cardinals and the University of Rochester Yellowjackets, to benefit the children and families at Camp Good Days, which will be played on Saturday, September 15, 2012 at Growney Stadium on the campus of St. John Fisher College, with kick-off slated for 7:00 PM. This year’s COURAGE BOWL will be the final showdown in the series between the Cardinals and the Yellowjackets, which promises to be thriller on the field, and we anticipate a sold-out stadium of students, alumni, families and fans.  We are excited to start the next chapter of the COURAGE BOWL when the Cardinals will face The College at Brockport Golden Eagles in future games.

As has been done with all previous COURAGE BOWL games, Camp Good Days will select six boys, all of whom are campers in Camp Good Days’ programs and are dealing with cancer, to serve as Honorary Coaches, three with each team.  The Honorary Coaches will attend a practice with their team the week of the game; will meet their team for the pre-game meal; be in the locker room with their team; lead their team on to the field; be at midfield for the coin toss; and coach from the sidelines during the game.  Camp Good Days will also select four girls, also campers who are dealing with cancer, to serve as Honorary Cheerleaders, two with each squad.  The Honorary Cheerleaders will attend practice with the squad the week of the game; meet the squad for pre-game preparation and cheer with the squad during the game.

To learn more about this year’s COURAGE BOWL, including how to support the event and get involved, check out the COURAGE BOWL page on our website,, or contact Laura Osborn at 585-624-5555 or 

We have had a couple of special fundraising events take place over the last few weeks, including the first annual Just Clowning Around 5K and Bocce Bash.  Both events were new for Camp Good Days and by all accounts the people who attended and participated had a great time and both events will help us to continue to be able to provide our programs and services free of charge for the participants.

We also have some special fundraising events coming up soon.  The Corey-Coffey Golf Classic will be held on Monday, August 20, 2012 at Penfield Country Club; the Friends of Ramon Santiago Golf Tournament is scheduled for Monday, August 27, 2012 at Midvale Country Club; and we are excited to be bringing back the Tour de Teddi Bike Ride on Saturday, September 29, 2012, around Keuka Lake. 

For those of you in the Central New York area, the Dr. John L. Dadey Memorial Golf Tournament will take place on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at Drumlins Country Club and for those of you in the Western New York area, the Fashion Show will be held on Sunday, September 23, 2012 at Salvatore’s.

For more information and details about all of the upcoming events and activities, be sure to check out our website, and be sure to like us on facebook, 

In regards to CANCER MISSION 2020, we are working now on the final draft of the initial plan, which will be the first step in addressing cancer in Monroe County, where cancer is now the leading cause of death.  We look forward to officially presenting the plan this fall and to sharing that with all of you.  Please be sure to check out, sign the petition, and share the site with your contacts. We need everyone’s help and support in order to reach our goal of ending cancer by the end of the decade. 

Last, but certainly not least, Camp Good Days has been blessed over the years to have many, many special friends and supporters who go above and beyond to help make all that we do possible.  Two of those friends are Jay and Jay Jay Vanderstyne of Vanderstyne Toyota. For the second year in a row, Vanderstyne Toyota, with support from Toyota Motor Company, is making it possible for us to hold the Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle! 

Every single dollar raised through the sale of raffle tickets will enable us to provide some good days and special times for some children and families in our community who need them the most!

The prize is a 2012 Toyota Corolla-S Model, featuring sunroof, cruise control, Bluetooth, power windows, and power locks, performance and fuel efficiency, plus an impressive list of safety features.  Tickets for the Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle are only $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, Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover.  The prize winner must be at least 18 years of age. The drawing will take place on New Year’s Eve, Monday, December 31, 2012. 

Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to not only win a brand new car, but to help support the many children and families at Camp Good Days!