Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Almost Summer Camp Time!

I know it has been quite some time since my last post, and I do apologize for that, but there has just been so much going on and all of a sudden here we are, at the end of May and coming up on Memorial Day Weekend!

Some of the highlights of the past couple of months include the Annual Florida Fun Fest trip and the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and Auction Dinner. 

On Thursday, April 25, 2013, a group of approximately 30 campers and volunteers departed from the Greater Rochester International Airport and embarked on the Annual Florida Fun Fest Trip.  We started in St. Petersburg, where we stayed at the beautiful Tradewinds Resort and everyone had the chance to take part in all they have to offer including swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, swimming in the pool, playing miniature golf, going on the giant, inflatable water slide and more.  On Thursday night, everyone was the special guests of good friends, Steve and Patty DiGennaro and their neighbors.  Steve and Patty, along with their friends, put on an amazing cookout dinner at their home and the campers had the chance to swim in the pool, fish off the dock, and play games.  Once again this year, Steve and Patty and their friends went above and beyond in welcoming the campers and volunteers and everyone had a great evening.  On Friday morning, the group took a Dolphin Watch Boat Tour during which we saw dolphins, sting rays and manatees.  On Saturday, the Children’s Cancer Center in Tampa welcomed Camp Good Days with open arms, hosting us for lunch and games at their facility.  It was a fun afternoon and a great opportunity for some of our campers to meet the children that the Children’s Cancer Center serves.  We are looking forward to a long relationship with Patty O’Leary and her staff and to having some of their children attend a program at Camp Good Days this summer.  The group headed to Orlando on Saturday afternoon, checking into the Seralago Suites.  On Sunday morning, John and Linda Mongoven, and some of the residents of Hunter’s Creek put on a fantastic brunch for the group and had Chief Rowley do his Snake Education Show for everyone.  As in the past, Chief Rowley’s show was a hit with the campers and John and Linda, and everyone who helped made it a great morning for us!  After Hunter’s Creek we headed to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and then rounded out our trip on Monday by spending the day at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. 

The Camp Good Days’ Florida 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 Annual Florida 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 31st Annual Dance for Love took place this past February 8-9, 2013.  The trip is also supported by 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.

If you want to see just how much fun everyone had on the trip, check out the photo album on our facebook page, www.facebook.com/CampGoodDays79. 

Upon returning from the Annual Florida Fun Fest trip, we headed right into the 13th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Auction Dinner, which was held on Saturday, May 4, 2013 at the Rochester Plaza Hotel and which, over the past 13 years has become our largest fundraising event in the Greater Rochester area.  The Wine Auction Dinner is the culmination of months of hard work and features the medal winning wines from the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, which was held at the end of March.  The Wine Auction Dinner begins with a Sponsor & VIP Reception, followed by Wine Tasting, and Silent and Live Auction Preview and the Auction and Dinner at 7:00 PM.  Rich Funke served as the Master of Ceremonies and Matthew Chung, Fine Wine Consultant with Chai Consulting, LLC in San Francisco, served as the Auctioneer again this year. 

Known as one of the world’s largest charitable wine competition, the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition is open to all commercial wineries from all wine-producing countries.  A record 3,504 wines were entered from 842 wineries, representing 20 countries, 4 Canadian Provinces, and all 50 United States. The competition judges awarded 104 Double Gold, 174 Gold, 1,204 Silver and 1,327 Bronze medals this year. Special award categories included: the John Rose Award for the best in class Riesling, presented to Chateau Fontaine 2011 Semi-Sweet Riesling; the Crystal Grape Award for the best in class Icewine, presented to Znovin Ryzlink Rynsky 2009 Riesling Icewine; the highest scoring Double Gold Chardonnay, presented to Bogle Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay and for the highest scoring Double Gold Cabernet Sauvignon, presented to Merriam Vineyards 2009 "Gloeckner-Turner Ranch"  Cabernet Sauvignon, Rockpile AVA.  More information about the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and Auction Dinner, as well as the complete list of medal winning wines is available at www.fliwc.com. 

As a special treat for all those in attendance, New York State Lieutenant Governor, Robert Duffy, and his wife, Barbara, were our special guests and the truly magical moment of the evening was when one of our campers, Katie Foster, shared her story and experience with all of the guests and reminded them how much their continued support means and how important that support is.  

Overall, the 13th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and Auction Dinner was another resounding success and will ultimately help us to provide some good days and special times for some very special children, adults and families this summer!

From a personal standpoint, I learned this past January that Lieutenant Governor, Robert Duffy, had nominated me for the 2013 Ellis Island Medal of Honor.  Sponsored by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO.org), the Ellis Island Medals of Honor are presented annually to American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life.  Past Medalists include six U.S. Presidents, one foreign President, Nobel Prize winners and leaders of industry, education, the arts, sports and government, as well as everyday Americans who have made freedom, liberty and compassion a part of their life’s work. 

I then received word earlier this spring that I was indeed selected as one of the recipients for this year and Wendy and I traveled to New York City for the various activities, events, Award Ceremony and Gala, which took place on Saturday, May 11, 2013 in the Great Hall on Ellis Island.  It is hard to put into words how truly special the weekend was.  It was a weekend full of wonderful activities, events, and people that I will never forget.  Over the years, I have had the opportunity to attend a variety of events and meet many people from all walks of life, but I can honestly tell you that the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Ceremony and Gala tops the list.

I am truly humbled by this unexpected honor.  To be included as part of the 2013 group of Medalists, for an award that has been presented to Bob Hope, Mohammad Ali, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and so many more exceptional and amazing people is a reflection on this wonderful adventure that has been Camp Good Days for the past 34 years.  It is a reflection of the hard work, dedication, and love of so many volunteers that have enabled us to serve more than 44,000 campers from 22 states and 28 countries; as well as all those who have helped us to establish and embark on our most recent initiative, CANCER MISSION 2020…THE END OF CANCER BY THE END OF THE DECADE.” 

In regards to CANCER MISSION 2020, I am excited that we are soon moving into the Call To Action phase of our plan, as we will be joining United States Congressman, Tom Reed, in early June, to share the re-introduction of the CANCER MISSION 2020 Legislation into the House of Representatives.  More specific details about this important legislation, as well as ways in which you can help and share this information, will be available in the coming weeks.  We also continue to build our database of CANCER MISSION 2020 supporters, conducting CANCER MISSION 2020 Petition Drives and collecting signatures at all of the various activities and events we are involved with. 

We are now focusing on getting everything ready to go for the summer camping programs and there is still time to register for the various programs we provide, for children, young adults, adults, and families.  Check out www.campgooddays.org for the complete schedule and online registration forms.  We are also getting ready for the Volunteer Training Sessions, to ensure that all those dedicated men and women who are willing to help us provide the best programs possible for our campers are well-equipped with the tools and information they need.  There is also still time to sign up as a volunteer.  Volunteer Applications are available on the website and can be completed and submitted online.  I can assure you that volunteering at one of the Camp Good Days’ summer programs will be one of the most amazing experiences of your life and one you won’t soon forget!

If you are not able to commit to a full program at the Camp Good Days’ Recreational Facility but still want to be involved and help out, there are many ways to do that as well. 

We are again this summer partnering with the Rochester Rhinos and Western New York Flash teams and conducting Quarters for Cancer at all of their home games at Sahlen’s Stadium.  Volunteers are needed to help collect quarters from game attendees and to help share information about Camp Good Days.  For more information and the schedule, please email Laura Osborn, losborn@campgooddays.org. 

We are thrilled and excited that Camp Good Days has been selected as one of the beneficiary organizations for the PGA Tour at Oak Hill Country Club, which will take place August 5-11, 2013.  This is a wonderful opportunity for us to raise some much needed funds and to share Camp Good Days with PGA attendees, but we are going to need many, many volunteers to help us make this a success.  To learn more about how you can volunteer for the PGA with Camp Good Days, please email Nicole Jones, njones@campgooddays.org. 

We have a variety of special fundraising events on the calendar and are looking for event attendees, participants, supporters, sponsors, and volunteers.  Some of the events include the Tournament of Love Golf Tournament, which will be held on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at Monroe Golf Club, chaired by our good friends, Rich and Pat Funke; Brew Ha Ha on Friday, June 14, 2013; Just Clowning Around 5K on Saturday, July 13, 2013 in Mendon; the Creative Black-Tie Gala, Great Wall of Courage, in Buffalo on Saturday, June 22, 2013; Bocce Bash on Saturday, July 20, 2013; Soccer in the Sand on Saturday and Sunday, August 3-4, 2013; the Syracuse Golf Tournament on Monday, August 5, 2013; Corey-Coffey Golf Classic on Monday, August 19, 2013; the Fashion Show in Buffalo on Sunday, September 22, 2013; Tour de Teddi on Saturday, September 28, 2013; and Courage Bowl IX on Saturday, November 16, 2013.

As you can see, it has been quite busy and eventful around here and we are now heading into our busiest season, but we are excited about the coming summer programs and to doing what we do best – providing the best programs and services, all in an effort to improve the quality of life for children, adults, and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life challenges and helping to create some truly good days and special times for those who need them the most!

As I was going through the mail today, I received a few things from long-time volunteer and friend, Larry Sicurella.  I read with great interest one of the items he sent, which he wrote and dedicated to a fellow volunteer, Craig Lawrence, who became a great friend and mentor to him.  As we are getting ready to begin our 34th summer, I thought I would share it with you…

Camp Good Days Creed

By Larry Sicurella


If you go to Camp Good Days, there’s some guide lines to follow

Eat all the camp food till your very last swallow

Try all the activities they have at the camp

There’s no shame in trying, you’ll feel like a champ

Take off your wig, we don’t care about hair

Wear what you want no one will stare

Bring your best voice, there’s plenty of singing

And be ready to eat when the breakfast bells ringing

The week will fly by, savor each day

It starts with a service in which we all pray

Just remember at camp there are no limitations

The counselors are unique they have different vocations

We are here together we’re a family for sure

And we’ll keep coming to camp till they find a cure

I promise you one thing Camp isn’t boring

And hopefully you’ll sleep through your counselors snoring

You must take a shower during the week

We all sleep in a cabin and we don’t want it to reek

Pick out a great costume for a Camp Good Days Dance

There’s dresses, sport coats, and all sorts of pants

Each day we are here you will laugh till you cry

And at the end we will hug and say our goodbyes

As you leave on the bus and shed your last tear

You’ll be counting the days till you come back next year