Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kya: A daddy's diary

Now that the St. John Fisher College Football season is over, I have had a chance to relax a little bit and catch up on some reading. Last fall, I was sent a copy of Kya: A daddy’s diary, written by Jeremy Bach, a Canandaigua resident who works at Thompson Hospital as an Operating Room Technician. The title immediately caught my eye, and I’m glad I read it.

Kya: A daddy’s diary is a quick read, and is written about Jeremy’s daughter, Kya, and her fight against a rare form of cancer as it's told through his diary, which documented his daughter's struggle against her illness. Although Kya is still undergoing chemotherapy until April, he remains incredibly upbeat. Furthermore, he wants to be a resource to other fathers who may be going through the same thing his family is.


The book is currently selling on Amazon and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Golisano Children’s Hospital. I’d recommend purchasing it and reading it this holiday season.

I wish all of the Camp Good Days family a very Merry Christmas, and only good days and special times in the New Year.

Be sure to keep up with us on social media, follow us on Twitter & Instagram (@campgooddays), and like us on Facebook! Tune in to our radio show, Good Days and Special Times, which airs the first Thursday of every month at 6:30 PM on WYSL 92.1 FM / 1040 AM.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Courage Classic & November at CGD

November has flown by, here at Camp Good Days. What a special month it was… We kicked off November with Courage Classic II. Camp Good Days has been fortunate to partner with two of the most prestigious NCAA Hockey teams in the country, Cornell University and Colgate University.

Courage Classic has proven to be an extremely special opportunity for the campers at Camp Good Days. Courage Classic is loosely based on The Courage Bowl, a tradition we started here in Rochester 11 years ago. We started Courage Bowl to give children who couldn’t participate in sports at the collegiate athletics due to their cancer or sickle cell anemia, the chance to be a part of a college football team. Courage Classic has been a tremendous event two years in a row, and I couldn’t be happier with the relationships our campers have been able to forge with the players and coaches on both teams.

The week kicked off with our campers each attending a practice with their respective teams, getting tours of the locker room, being on the ice and shooting on goalies, and finished with a pizza party. Each of our Honorary Captains were presented signed jerseys from both teams, a keepsake they’ll be able to wear for a long time.

On game-day, Lynah Rink was packed to capacity with over 4,200 fans and our kids had the chance to be a part of the ceremonial puck drop prior to the game. The kids were met at the tunnel by each team’s captains, skated to center ice, and, after the puck drop, each team skated over to high five our Honorary Captains.

This will be an experience for those that have participated will never forget. For me, the lasting memory I will have is the picture of Coach Shafer, of Cornell University, with Brody, one of our Honorary Captains, after the game. Brody and his family will have this memory forever. With all the negativity that is going on in the world, those at Lynah Rink had a chance to see the human spirit soar. Thank you to both Cornell and Colgate Hockey Teams.

After Courage Classic, I traveled to Turning Stone Resort where I was honored to be the Keynote Speaker at Campgrounds Owners of New York’s (CONY) Annual Conference.

CONY has been a true friend to Camp Good Days since 2012. There are almost 300 CONY Campgrounds throughout the state. I was pleased to have the opportunity to personally say thank you to all the campground owners for their continued support. Since kicking off their efforts to raise money for Camp Good Days, our friends at CONY have generated nearly $250,000.

What inspires me most about the CONY owners is their work ethic. They are so driven and have truly dedicated themselves to raising funds and awareness for Camp Good Days. I am so grateful for their friendship. This year alone, CONY was able to raise $91,000 for CGD. This is a great gift to all of our children and families right before the Holiday Season.

I want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, and will write again before the Holidays.

Monday, November 16, 2015

C.O.C.A. Conference

As the Chairman & Founder of Camp Good Days, I have had the privilege of meeting some amazing individuals and speaking at various different conventions. Last weekend, I spoke to an audience I felt compelled to write about. For the first time in far too long, I reconnected with Children’s Oncology Camping Association (C.O.C.A.) at their International Conference that took place in Niagara Falls, Ontario. With the company of a few members of our staff, we spent a few days interacting and networking with other camps from around the world.

C.O.C.A. is an organization that is very near and dear to my heart. In 1982, C.O.C.A., Children's Oncology Camps of America was founded by a dozen pioneer oncology camps. The personnel from these twelve camps found the lives of children with cancer were immeasurably enhanced by camping. Noting their similar experiences, these visionary souls believed a forum should be created to share their ideas and experiences. That forum known as C.O.C.A. currently consists of over 65 member camps from within the United States.

One of my most fond memories of C.O.C.A. was when we hosted the Annual C.O.C.A.-I Conference in Rochester, NY in November of 1990. Much like when we hosted in 1990, this conference reminded me of why I had helped to start C.O.C.A. It was great to reconnect with some old friends, and share information and stories. It was truly a nice opportunity to see how much C.O.C.A. has grown for children and families battling cancer.

Lastly, it was an honor to speak to the audience about Cancer Mission 2020, an initiative of Camp Good Days to make cancer a chronic illness by 2020, where one can still maintain a decent quality of life. The main point of emphasis that I touched on was the importance of clinical trials. Clinical trials are where the answers to cancer are going to come from.

As we approach the Holidays and are gearing up to send Holiday cards, we’d ask that you make Cancer Mission 2020 a part of your traditions this year. Have your family sign the petition, share it with your friends on Facebook. What better gift could you give than helping us find the answers to cancer?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fall Recap

Where does the time go? I feel like it was just yesterday that we were putting the kids on the bus and sending them off to camp in July and here we are, more than halfway through October.

My last blog brought us from June to the beginning of September… September is always a particularly busy month at Camp Good Days. We usually try and cram a lot into September because the weather is usually still beautiful, and the fall in the Finger Lakes provides some of the best scenery in the country.

 On September 19th, we were blessed with a beautiful day for our annual Tour de Teddi. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the ride this year, but I heard that the event was a fantastic time. I, as you may know, am the Kicking Coach for St. John Fisher College’s Football Team, and we had a game that day. I heard from numerous people that by all accounts the people who attended and participated had a great time. Tour de Teddi’s fundraising efforts will help us to continue to be able to provide our programs and services free of charge for the participants.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to our Honorary Chair Dino Kay, of Fickle 93.3. We’re so thrilled he was able to join us and bike in this event.

On Saturday, September 26, 2015, Courage Bowl XI was played.  The Courage Bowl is the annual football game featuring the St. John Fisher College Cardinals and The College at Brockport Golden Eagles. The Courage Bowl is the annual to benefit the children and families at Camp Good Days.

We went into this game wanting to give the Honorary Coaches, which included Sam Gigliotta, Brody Hines, and Noah Martin for the Cardinals; and Padraig Crowley, Matthew Kubisty, and Simon Fendinger for the Golden Eagles; and the Honorary Cheerleaders, which included Ciara Griffin and KorieMae Spirito for the Cardinals; and Aaliyah Akins and Sara Bischoping for the Golden Eagles; a special experience and the opportunity to create some memories that they will carry with them for a long time.  We also wanted to give the players from both teams the chance to spend some time with these amazing campers.

Looking back, we could not have scripted it any better if we tried! The weather was beautiful and both teams showed our campers a great time. Thousands of fans filled Growney Stadium on the St. John Fisher College campus.  It was a perfect day for football, and the game was arguably the best Courage Bowl of all time. The fans who attended Courage Bowl XI were able to see a thrilling double overtime victory for the Cardinals, with a final score of 42-41. The day was phenomenal for Camp Good Days’ campers, and truly lived up to the billing, “More Than Just A Game.”

This year’s Courage Bowl, we focused on childhood cancer awareness, and made all of the shirts sold at the game be a shade of gold. We also had a gold balloon launch prior to kickoff to remember the many children who are battling cancer worldwide.

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

We finished off our camping seasons with two programs: our growing Women’s Oncology Program and the relatively new Men’s Prostate Cancer Retreat. Both programs have proven to be extremely useful programs, and we’re excited to be able to continue these programs.

I’d like to thank former Central New York Director of Camp Good Days, Claire McKenney, who currently runs Paint Nite Syracuse, for donating her time and leading the women in a painting demonstration.

I’d also like to thank Dr. Jean Joseph, Dr. Louis Eichel, and Dr. Jeffrey Albaugh for attending the Men’s Prostate Cancer Retreat and facilitating discussion for the participants.

We are so thrilled to share that through the overwhelming generosity of Jay and Jay Jay Vanderstyne, Vanderstyne Toyota, and Toyota Motors, we have been given the opportunity to host the Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle once again!  With the donation from Vanderstyne of a 2016 LE Plus Corolla, one hundred percent of all ticket sales will benefit the children and families at Camp Good Days.  The Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle began on September 26, 2015 and the drawing will take place on Saturday, January 30, 2016 at the Teddi Dance for Love at St. John Fisher College.  The 2016 LE Plus Corolla features power windows, power locks, 16-inch Alloy Wheels, 6.1” Touch Screen / Bluetooth/USB/AUX/CD with Backup Camera, and Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof.  The Toyota Corolla offers the ideal blend of comfort, value and safety.  Tickets for the Camp Good Days’ Car Raffle are $20.00 each, or 3 tickets for $50.00 and may be purchased by contacting Camp Good Days at 585-624-5555 or 800-785-2135 or online at www.campgooddays.org.  Tickets may be purchased using cash, check, or credit card.  The prize winner must be at least 18 years of age.

Plans are now underway for the Annual Joe Benet Memorial Kazoo Fest.  I am so excited that the JC Penney stores at Eastview Mall, Marketplace Mall, and Greece Ridge Center Mall have all agreed to partner with us again this year in the Rochester area to have the Kazoo Fest set-up at the mall entrances to their stores.  We are also excited to have Kazoo Fest locations at Destiny USA in Syracuse, the Walden-Galleria Mall in Buffalo, and at the Old Navy at The Shops at Ithaca in Ithaca.  The Kazoo Fest will take place from Friday, November 27, 2015 through Wednesday, December 23, 2015 and is a wonderful opportunity for us to not only generate some much needed funds to help make our programs possible, but provides us with the venue in which to reach many people and share all that we do with them.  We are in need of HUNDREDS OF VOLUNTEERS to help make the Kazoo Fest a great success.  No previous experience is needed and volunteers can select their preferred location, date(s), and times.  All of the Kazoo Fest Volunteer Information and Sign-Up can be found on our website, www.campgooddays.org, or by contacting your local Camp Good Days’ Office (Headquarters / Rochester: 585-624-5555 / 800-785-2135; Buffalo: 716-206-0709; Syracuse: 315-434-9477; Ithaca: 607-266-9180).

Thank you to all of our supporters who continue on this journey with me. Camp Good Days has always been a memorial to my daughter, Teddi, and I cannot thank you enough for helping me to allow this dream to become my reality.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Summer Recap

I know it has been quite awhile since my last post and I apologize for the delay, but to say that this summer and fall have been busy is putting it mildly.

I promised myself at the beginning of the summer that I would try to spend more time at our Recreational Facility during our programs. I am glad to say I was able to spend two or three days at every program this summer, and a full week during our Doing A World of Good program. I wish that everyone had time to spend at Camp Good Days, as it is truly a magical and spiritual place.  It is how the world should be – everyone is accepted for who they are -  it doesn’t matter if you are skinny or overweight, short or tall, a girl or a boy, if you have hair or not, if you have a prosthesis or not. Everyone gets three meals a day, plus snacks, and a roof over their head.  And it all happens in a place as far away from the sterile environment of the hospital, on the shores of beautiful Keuka Lake. Where else can children who have been dealing with cancer, enduring the most potent treatment available, and spending way too much time in the hospital, get the chance to get back some of their childhood that their illness has stolen from them?  And they get to do it with the only ones in the world who can truly understand what they are going through – other children dealing with cancer. 

To give you just a glimpse of what it is like to spend a week at Camp Good Days, imagine waking up and fishing from a boat; jumping in Keuka Lake as part of Polar Bear Swim; playing gaga dodgeball; getting pictures taken in our new Ranger station; playing in the new bubble pit; and possibly having the Rochester Rhinos professional soccer team visit, the Colgate Women’s Basketball Team, the St. John Fisher College or The College at Brockport Football teams, Bat McGrath, or even a magician! Not only were many good days and special times had by all of our campers this summer, but two new countries experienced the magic of Camp Good Days, as Spain and Antigua attended this summer’s session of Doing A World of Good.

There is no other place that the campers from Camp Good Days will get that same experience, and we provide all of these programs free of charge for the participants, which is only possible because of the generous support from so many individuals, businesses, and organizations, the success of special fundraising events and activities, and the dedicated summer staff, volunteers and friends who give so much of their time and their love to help make these programs possible.

 It is hard to believe that our 36th year has come to an end, and while the world is certainly a much different place than it was when we started on this adventure, it is nice to know that Camp Good Days is still driven by volunteers who do so much to create the best experience possible for the campers, and willingly take on the awesome responsibility of sending the campers home at the end of their session in the same condition in which they arrived.

We ended camp with three particularly successful programs with our Leadership Program, for children transitioning in the Rochester City School District from elementary school to middle school; the Brain Tumor Family Retreat, for families that have a member with a malignant brain tumor; and, with the help of the Veteran's Outreach Center, the Inaugural Veteran’s Family Retreat, for families that have a member serving the United States’ military. We are excited to continuously be expanding our programming at Camp Good Days, and are already busy planning our 37th summer. 

That’s all I have… For now! In my next blog, I will recap Tour de Teddi, Courage Bowl XI, and our Project Exile Report to the Community Luncheon. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June Recap

We’re into crunch-time at Camp Good Days, with summer programs just around the corner, we’re wrapping up some special events before we shift into camp mode.

At the beginning of June, we held our 32nd Annual Tournament of Love, at the prestigious Monroe Golf Club. After a soggy start, it turned out to be a beautiful day of golf, fun, and laughter. We were lucky enough to be joined by former Camp Good Days Board Member, Bill Polian, who is a current NFL Analyst on ESPN and a former General Manager of the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. During his time as an NFL General Manager, Bill possessed a keen eye for talent, and he was successful everywhere he went. I was honored to present Bill with a Teddi Award for his time on the Camp Good Days Board during the 1990s.

I was also happy to have former Democrat & Chronicle reporter and current host of The Radio Press Box, Scott Pitoniak host a question and answer session with Bill. It was great seeing Bill and Scott converse about the 1990s, and his dilemma of choosing Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf in the 1998 NFL Entry Draft.

I am also incredibly thankful to Jeff and Carolyn Gerstner, for their role as the Honorary Chairs of the Tournament of Love. With their help, we focused on melanoma awareness. We partnered with The Rochester Melanoma Action Group to provide information on how to protect yourself from the sun, as well as educating the golfers about melanoma.

One our our campers, Haley Smith, who currently attends Teddi’s Team, gave a speech about what Camp Good Days has meant to her, and she stole the show. Haley said she was looking forward to making memories this summer at Camp Good Days, and we can’t wait to see her at Camp.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of speaking to over seventy new volunteers who will be heading to our Recreational Facility this summer and volunteering on a program. It’s always so heartwarming to see the faces of so many ambitious and excited individuals who are so selflessly dedicating a week (sometimes even more) of their summers to Camp Good Days.

After I addressed the volunteers, Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley spoke to the volunteers about the importance of what they are contributing to Camp Good Days mission. Her message was clear, and I am grateful she took the time to speak to our new volunteers.

Later that day, I had the privilege of being a guest at the 14th Annual Camp Good Days Black Tie Gala. Our WNY Regional Director, Lisa, as well as the rest of her office-mates Shaylee, Jenn and Marci pulled out all the stops to hold an incredible event. The Gala was Michael Jackson themed, and everything from the set design, the auction items, to the speakers was unbelievable. There was even a special performance from the Michael Jackson band, “Who’s Bad.”

We are very blessed that Rob Lederman from 97 Rock was, again, our emcee for the evening, and he keeps the audience laughing the whole night. We have a great base of friends in Buffalo, all of which it was great to see, from Dave & Mary Pietrowski, to Lindy Ruff, Dan Bylsma, Brian & Leilon Duff, to Mark & Tricia Rosenthal. Camp Good Days is fortunate to have such a vast group of supporters in Buffalo, and I thank all the people who were involved with the event. I’d also like to thank Rob & Kristi Moore, and Moore for Kids, for their $50,000 donation at the event.

The highlight of the night was listening to the courageous presentation of Sue Underwood, who has been touched by cancer in more ways that anyone should. Her daughter, Kayla, was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. Luckily, Kayla’s treatment plan went well, and she is now attending college. Shortly after Kayla’s diagnosis, Sue was diagnosed with cancer. She said how much Camp Good Days’ Women’s Oncology Program helped her cope with her diagnosis. Lastly, her step-son, Jordan, just passed away in January after a long battle against a brain tumor. The pictures that were shown of Jordan while she was speaking were truly moving, and she connected with the audience in a great way. Jordan was a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan, and with the help of our Western New York office, he was able to meet Patrick Kane after attending a game when the Blackhawks played the Sabres in Buffalo.

It takes bravery to stand up in front of a crowd and share a journey, especially one of Sue’s magnitude, with complete strangers. Sue exemplified what Camp Good Days is all about, and I was so happy that she was there sharing her story with us.

As summer begins, I will try to keep this blog updated. We have a lot of children slated to come to Camp Good Days this summer, and we’re looking forward to making our 36th Anniversary summer our best one yet. This summer, campers from three new countries will experience the magic of Camp Good Days, bringing our total to 32 different countries. We're eagerly awaiting our new campers from France, Spain and Antigua!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Project T.I.P.S. - Troup Street Park

On Thursday, May 28th, we held our first Project T.I.P.S. of 2015 at Troup Street Park.  Project T.I.P.S. stands for Trust, Information, Programs and Services, and is an effort to rebuild and foster trust between city residents and the local law enforcement. Project T.I.P.S. encourages  the sharing of information of residents with law enforcement.

Groups, including two law enforcement officials 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 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. 

The Inaugural Project T.I.P.S. was held in August 2008 in the Dewey and Driving Park community. Since its inception, Project T.I.P.S. has quickly evolved into a community-wide effort with support and participation from the Partners Against Violence Everywhere (PAVE) Initiative, Project Exile Advisory Board, Rochester Police Department, Rochester Fire Department, City of Rochester Recreation Department, New York State Police, New York State Parole, United States Border Patrol, Pathways to Peace, Monroe County Probation, Monroe County Sheriff’s Department,  Irondequoit Police Department, Monroe County Department of Human Services, Humane Society at Lollypop Farm, Rise Up Rochester, and numerous other law enforcement and community agencies.

This year, we have been blessed with the presence of Amy Pierson on the Project T.I.P.S. committee. Amy attended the first Project T.I.P.S. at Troup Street Park, and I cannot thank her enough for her involvement this year. Amy has used the loss of her husband, Daryl, as a platform to prevent others from having to undergo what she has gone through.

After going on the community surveys, Amy helped out with a bike raffle. Children had the opportunity to win a bicycle and a helmet from R-Community Bikes. In order to enter, they had to fill out a form saying they would never carry an illegal gun, and a parent or guardian had to sign off on it.

I’m so proud of Amy, and cannot wait to see her involvement grow with Project T.I.P.S. in the future.
All of the food was, again, generously provided by TOPS Markets, and we couldn’t do what we do without them. I would also like to thank the Rochester Rhinos, who brought one of their players and Rex, their mascot, to our event.

Our next Project T.I.P.S. will take place on Thursday, June 25th. We will revisit a location on the corner of Grand Avenue and Chamberlain Street, where we experienced one of our largest T.I.P.S. ever. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Proud to Live in Rochester

The past month has provided yet another reason why I am proud to call Rochester and Monroe County my home. The effort of the public servants in our area gave me the reason to post this blog today.

First, we celebrated the life of a public servant who exemplified what public service was all about, in saying goodbye to former Sheriff Andrew Meloni, who lost his battle to cancer. Sheriff Meloni gave forty-one years of his life to the Monroe County Sheriff Department, with the last twenty-one years as the highest law enforcement officer in Monroe County, as Sheriff. He led the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department to be one of the first to be accredited statewide and nationally. He was constantly driven by maintaining the highest of professional standards.

Sheriff Meloni treated people with respect, and I never saw him lose his temper. He was a gentleman and a true law enforcement professional in every sense of the word. I am sad to see him pass on, but know he left a legacy that will remain for years to come, and it showed with the amount of people who paid their respects to him at his funeral services.

We also saw another public servant handle herself with class, grace, and hard-work, in District Attorney Sandra Doorley. Anyone who is familiar with prosecuting a case like the one against Thomas Johnson III and the murder of Daryl Pierson knows that proving intent is one of the most difficult things to do. Yet, in a very good trial that never got unruly, she conducted herself as a true professional as she prosecuted Thomas Johnson III.

The result of her work ethic and the homework she did on the case, resulted in the jury doing its job, as they chose to find Johnson III guilty of Felony Aggravated Murder. Thanks to District Attorney Doorley and the jury, Johnson III will be sentenced without the chance at parole and the chance to cause harm to any of the citizens in Rochester.

I know that Sheriff Meloni has left his mark on the Monroe County. I’m also proud of District Attorney Doorley.  The verdict of guilty in the Thomas Johnson III case allows us to remember Officer Daryl Pierson as the true hero that he was, and hopefully gave his family some peace of mind. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wine Season!

We are into crunch time here at Camp Good Days, as we are not only in the process of recruiting summer staff, campers, and volunteers for the summer, as well as preparing the Recreational Facility for all of the summer camping programs, but we also have one of our successful special fundraising events coming up.

Over the past 15 years, the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and Wine Auction Dinner has become the largest fundraising event in the Greater Rochester area to benefit the children and families we serve. The 15th Annual Wine Auction Dinner will take place on Saturday, May 2, 2015 at the Rochester Plaza Hotel, 70 State Street, Downtown Rochester. This exciting evening will begin with a Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Live Auction Preview at 5:30 PM, and the Auction Dinner at 7:00 PM. Once again this year, Matthew Chung will serve as the Lead Auctioneer and Senator Rich Funke will be our Master of Ceremonies.

The 15th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, which was held March 21 & 22, 2015, was a resounding success. More than 3700 wines were entered into the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. These entries came from 924 wineries, including 125 New York State wineries, from 27 different countries around the world, all 50 states and six Canadian Provinces.

THANK YOU to all the amazingly dedicated volunteers. To everyone who helped out this weekend, I cannot thank you enough. We cannot do what we do without our volunteers, and especially this weekend. Whether you washed glasses, uncorked wine, poured it, moved it or made the bourbon s’mores, you contributed to another fantastic year at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

It was so nice to see the huge amount of volunteers we had return this year for the weekend. We were so pleased with their commitment to Camp Good Days. We were thrilled to have many of them join us at the Judges Dinner on Saturday night at Max’s Eastman Place.

All of the wines were evaluated by a world-renowned panel of judges representing distributors, educators, enologists, sommeliers, restaurateurs, winemakers and writers from all over the United States and around the world. The judges awarded Double Gold (unanimous), Gold, Silver and Bronze medals and only medal winning wines will be featured at the Wine Auction Dinner, along with a delicious meal, great friends and conversation, and fabulous silent and live auction items.

It’s hard to believe that Peter Parts, a member of our Board of Directors, approached me with the idea of holding a wine competition fifteen years ago. Who would have thought it would grow into what it has today? We could not do it without him, or the entire FLIWC Committee.

We were also pleased to have a new title sponsor come aboard this year, as Waterloo Container became the Gold Medal Sponsor. With their help, some of the volunteers that worked both days were able to enjoy the Judges Dinner at a no cost. We were thrilled to have them come aboard, and hope they’ll continue their support for years to come.

We wrapped up the weekend stopping at a number of participating wineries in the Finger Lakes, and with a dinner at the Genesee Brew House. I personally loved the Bavarian pretzels and mustard at the Brew House, which is truly a treasure to the City of Rochester.

In just one month, we will be auctioning off the medal winning wines at the Camp Good Days Wine Auction Dinner. Tickets to attend the Wine Auction Dinner are $150.00 per person and can be purchased by calling Camp Good Days at 585-624-5555 or online viawww.fliwc.com or www.campgooddays.org.

If you love wine, this is the event you want to attend. Tickets would also make a fantastic gift for that special someone. In addition to having a wonderful time and tasting some of the best wines in the world, you will leave that evening knowing that you have helped to create some good days and special times for some very special children and families in our community.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

33rd Annual Dance for Love

For the 33rd year in a row, the students at St. John Fisher College danced for 24 hours to honor my daughter, Teddi. The Teddi Dance for Love began back in 1982 when my good friend and professor at St. John Fisher, Dr. Lou Buttino, and some of his students decided they wanted to help Camp Good Days. The first year, they had just a few dozen dancers and raised just a few thousand dollars.

Since then, the dance has grown and multiplied immensely.  The dance has become a very special annual tradition for not only everyone here at Camp Good Days, but also for the students at St. John Fisher College and the Rochester community. This year, the Teddi Dance for Love Committee raised $51,982.03 for the children and families of Camp Good Days, a remarkable amount, and I couldn't be more proud of them! 

It has been said that the two greatest gifts that we, as human beings, can give to one another are our time and our love. Over 24 hours last weekend, each and every one of the participants gave so much of both, and their energy and spirit will help to provide some good days and special times to some very special children and families who need it the most.

This year was last Teddi Dance for Love for Dr. Bain, and his wife Meg, as President and "First Lady" of St. John Fisher College. Dr. Bain was there from the start of the Dance for Love, and has been a crucial part of every dance since. I cannot thank the Bain's for all they have done for Camp Good Days.

The money raised at the Teddi Dance helps to fund the Teddi Project at Camp Good Days which provides a very special trip to Florida each year for some of our campers battling cancer where they get to experience firsthand the magic of Disney Land, Universal Studios, and St. Pete’s Beach. Over the last 33 years, the dance has raised more than $1,000,000 to support the Teddi Project!

This year, the students chose to dedicate the dance to Camp Good Days’ camper, Ashley Nagel. Ashley lost her battle in September 2013 at just four years old. I know that Ashley was smiling down on of the Dance for Love participants as they danced the night away.

Thank you to the Dance for Love Committee who has, for all these years, kept her memory and spirit alive. As Teddi’s father, what greater gift could I receive?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015 Starts With a Bang

Where does the time go? Can you believe we’re already into February, and that 2015 is already one-month-old? Camp Good Days has had one of the busiest and most memorable January’s that we’ve ever had.  

First and foremost, Camp Good Days’ Annual Fun Fest Trip took place from January 29th to February 3rd. On Thursday, January 29th 2015, a group of approximately 45 campers and volunteers departed from the Greater Rochester International Airport and embarked on the Annual Florida Fun Fest Trip.  We started in Orlando on Thursday afternoon, checking into the Seralago Suites. We’re so thankful for our friend, Barbara Rodriguez, for going out of her way to ensure our stay was everything we could have hoped for.

On Friday morning, we met up with John and Linda Mongoven, and they hosted us for brunch at Applebee’s. After brunch we headed to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is always one of the kids’ favorite stops on the Florida trip, and it’s a time for the children to let go and be kids.

Saturday, we brought the campers to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Many thanks go out to Vanessa Campbell, a friend of ours who works at Universal, who always goes above and beyond in making sure our visit goes smoothly and that the kids have the time of their life.

We had a great time in Orlando, and on Sunday, the group headed to St. Pete’s Beach, where we stayed at the beautiful TradeWinds Resort.

On Sunday 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 Super Bowl cookout dinner at their home and the campers had the chance to swim in the pool, fish off the dock, play games, and watch the game. 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. It was great to see and have former Buffalo Bills Place Kicker, Steve Christie, and his wife, Kelly, at our Super Bowl party. Many of our campers enjoyed having a former Super Bowl participant at the party.

On Monday, the General Manager of the International House of Pancakes treated the campers to brunch. We were also fortunate enough to have an anonymous donor pay for the remainder of the volunteers and staff members. I cannot tell you the joy that the breakfast at IHOP brought to me. The rest of the day was spent relaxing at the beach at the TradeWinds, where 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, collecting sea-shells, going on the giant, inflatable water slide and more.  

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 33rd Annual Dance for Love will take place on February 20-21, 2015.  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.

All Things Not Florida

I, admittedly, am not a hockey guy. I have never truly gotten into the sport, but I must say, our campers were treated to a great month of hockey. It all started at the Buffalo Sabres game on January 2nd. We brought ten campers from Rochester to the game in Buffalo, where our campers took in the game from a suite at center ice. Although the result was not what our campers had hoped for (a 2-0 loss to Florida), they had a great time being transported to the game from our Mendon office via party bus, and taking in the game from some of the best seats in the First Niagara Center. All of the transportation was made possible from the Sugarman Family Fund.

On January 23rd, our campers were the guests of Brian and Leilon Duff at a Rochester Americans game. Brian is a broadcaster for the Buffalo Sabres, and during the NHL All-Star break, he and his family traveled down the Thruway and spent the night in a suite with our campers. The suite was great, and our campers enjoyed the all-you-can-eat pizza, chicken wings, and snacks that were provided. They were also visited by some Amerks players who were dealing with injuries, and got some autographs. We feel so fortunate to have the support of the Duff’s, and look forward to inducting them into our Ring of Honor this month at our Annual Night of Gratitude.

In 2014, Marcie, our Southern Tier Office Director, approached me with the idea of having a “Courage Bowl” styled hockey game between Cornell University and Colgate University. After a few meetings with our staff, the Inaugural Courage Classic was born. On January 31, 2015, six of our campers partook in the Inaugural Courage Classic, all of whom had been touched by cancer, and had the experience of a lifetime. Each team, Cornell and Colgate, were given three Honorary Coaches, who would be a part of the team on game-day. The Honorary Coaches attended a practice with the team prior to the game, were given signed authentic game jerseys from the team, and participated in a pregame ceremonial puck-drop. Over 4,200 people attended the Inaugural Courage Classic, all of which gave a standing ovation to our campers when they were introduced and took the ice.

 Other Events:

The Third Annual Takedown Cancer Wrestling Duals took on new meaning this year, as each wrestling team had Honorary Coaches who attend Camp Good Days’ programming. Rush-Henrietta, Webster Thomas, Penfield, and Fairport each had one of our campers attend a practice the week of the duals and gave the campers authentic wrestling gear. On the day of the duals, the campers were on the bench with the team, rooting on their respective squads. The wrestling community was able to raise over $4,000 for Camp Good Days, and we are so thankful for their support over the past three years.

The Fayetteville-Manlius Dance Marathon is off and running, and this year, one of our own campers, Camdyn, spoke at the assemblies, which officially kicked off the fundraising. She and James, along with a few others, spoke about Camp Good Days, and conveyed the importance of the FM Dance Marathon to CGD. This will be the 25th year that FM has raised money for Camp Good Days, and we cannot thank them enough for their hard work over the past 25 years! 

On January 24th, our Buffalo campers attended “Disney on Ice” at the First Niagara Center. Many of the campers dressed up in their crowns and watched some of their favorite Disney characters skate to their favorite songs.

Lastly, the 11th Annual Cycle For Hope took place at Rochester area gyms. This fundraiser has come a long way since its inception in 2004. Ten gyms participated, and hundreds of people cycled for Camp Good Days, as well as Golisano Children’s Hospital. We’re anticipating the event raise as much, if not more than the $8,000 that it raised for Camp Good Days last year.

We’re looking forward to a busy February as well. The Annual Dance For Love is taking place on February 20th and 21st, we’re bringing the campers to Glacier Ridge on February 17th, and the Annual Night of Gratitude is on February 27th. I’ll be writing you frequently this month, and providing updates along the way! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

In Memory of Ray

It is with a heavy heart and much sadness, yet wonderful memories that I write this post today.  Camp Good Days, and I personally, have lost a friend and colleague, and someone who was an integral part of making this organization what it is today, with the recent passing of Ray Cordello.

When I was starting Camp Good Days, I was just a Dad, looking for a way to deal with what was going on in my family, and looking for a way in which to give my daughter, Teddi, the opportunity to realize that she was not the only child dealing with cancer.  In those very early days of Camp Good Days, Ray, who worked for the County of Monroe for many years, served as our volunteer Treasurer.  Ray was not a politician, but working in a political environment, and as will happen, the day came when the administration and the party in power changed.  Ray was one of the last employees of the former Lucien Morin Administration in Monroe County, but did eventually lose his job.  At the time, he asked what he could do to help Camp Good Days, as he had extra time and was in the midst of searching for the next step in his career.  With a wife and two children, he wanted to stay in the community.  Camp Good Days was operating on Canandaigua Lake, renting a facility then, where he came and did whatever was needed that summer – running errands, helping with anything that was asked of him. 

As fate would have it, we at Camp Good Days were in the process of looking for someone to come aboard and handle the financial and accounting functions that fall.  One night, I met Ray and our mutual friend, Fran Russo, for dinner, when Ray shared with me the opportunities he was exploring, which were similar to what we were searching for, it was the perfect fit for everyone.  I said to Ray, there was no way we could afford to pay him what he had been making but, why not work for an organization he believed in and had dedicated so many volunteer hours to, and if something came along later, I would not stand in his way.  I would be happy for him and we would be no worse off than we were, in searching for someone to fill that position.  So, Ray came to work for Camp Good Days, an organization that he had spent so many volunteer hours helping to make a reality. 

I have always been the one who doesn’t sleep and who comes up with some crazy ideas and plans, and it was always Ray, along with our dedicated staff, that made those ideas and plans come to fruition.  Ray was always in the background, happy to just make what needed to happen.  I never had to worry about the finances, the accounting, the audits that we are required to go through every year, the numerous filings and paperwork that needed to be completed to maintain our status as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. 

None of us is getting any younger and as Ray got older, it came to be time for a change and to begin to prepare someone to take over Ray’s responsibilities.  I was happy that Ray could help to train his successor, especially because it was a challenging time in that we not only had to find someone to take on those responsibilities but also had to find a new audit company, when the company we had been using for so many years was no longer able to be our auditors. 

Ray was as honest as the day is long.  He was a great husband, father, and grandfather.  He was dedicated to his church and his Webster community.  He believed so thoroughly in the mission of Camp Good Days and was dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and families dealing with cancer.  He was always willing to make it happen – no matter how crazy or impossible it seemed.  He was there.  Always there to make sure that Camp Good Days was in the best financial shape possible and that we, as an organization, would never falter, despite many challenges and difficult economic times.  He was always there, to lend an ear – for advice, for guidance, or to just let you vent.  He was stubborn for sure, but in most instances, that stubbornness proved to be correct.  He was a cornerstone in the building of Camp Good Days and in making it what it is today, and for that I will forever be grateful.

It is too hard to actually believe that he is gone.  There are too many memories and stories to share in this forum, but for those of us who had Ray in our lives, we now have him in our hearts, along with all of those memories and stories.  He will be missed more than he would have ever thought possible, by so many whose lives he touched, in one way or another.  For those of us who were fortunate enough to have known him, been friends with him, and worked with him, we will forever be better people for his strong personality, his quiet dedication, and his support.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

As you can imagine, things have been very hectic and busy, here at Camp Good Days, and the time just goes by so quickly. We've just wrapped up our Annual Kazoo Fest, and our 35th year. 

This special time of year provides us with the opportunity to be thankful for our many blessings.  Camp Good Days has so many special angels, who in small ways and large ways, help us to continue fulfilling our mission and who have helped me to keep my daughter Teddi’s memory and legacy going, and for that I am forever grateful. 

Throughout the past few weeks, I have done a lot of reflecting on our 35th Anniversary summer. It’s safe to say our 35th Anniversary did not go according to plan. We had spent much of the 2013-2014 winter planning various events to commemorate this milestone year, and were excited to celebrate our 35th Anniversary.

As I’ve said many times, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. May flooding at our Keuka Lake Recreational Facility put our 2014 schedule in jeopardy. With consecutive floods that devastated our camp, we were unsure that we would be able to hold any sort of activity at our facility all summer. Over $500,000 worth of damage ravaged our property, and we are still busy making repairs.

It’s crazy to think that out of something so terrible, came so much good for Camp Good Days. The amount of people who reached out and volunteered their time and services was truly heartwarming. The overwhelming amount of people who donated money to help us make repairs on our facility was incredible. Over 700 people volunteered and helped us pick up the pieces of Camp during the first week after the flooding. We had volunteers staffing the phones in our office, as well as at our Recreational Facility, and received thousands of calls of people asking how they could help.

There are numerous volunteers who went far out of their way to come to our aid, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many special angels, who without them, I’m confident we wouldn’t have gotten Camp ready in time for our 35th Anniversary Summer. The list is far too long to name, but you know who you are, and we could not have gotten camp back up and running without you.

It is also the time that we plan for the coming year and all of the excitement and unknown that goes along with that.  With that in mind, I would like to share with you some of our objectives for 2015 with CANCER MISSION 2020.

There has been a lot going on in regards to CANCER MISSION 2020.  As many of you know, CANCER MISSION 2020 was officially launched on December 2, 2010 and it is hard to believe that four years have gone by already.   We are proud of how far we have come in such a short time and we are excited about the coming year.  CANCER MISSION 2020 is based on a three-prong approach of INFORMATION – CALL TO ACTION – ACCOUNTABILITY. 

In 2015, we will shift into the CALL TO ACTION phase, with the re-introduction of the legislation that was established by Congressman Tom Reed, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, and Congressman Chris Collis into Congress previously. 

This Holiday Season was particularly difficult, and new cancer diagnosis, as well as friends succumbing to cancer, really put a damper on the Holidays. Cancer is a disease that not only prematurely takes your life; it almost humiliates you while doing so.

The recent death of Stuart Scott is a reminder that cancer is an equal opportunity killer. Stuart led an inspirational life, and blazed his own trail in the broadcasting world. Cancer, unfortunately, doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, young or old, black or white, Democrat or Republican. Cancer needs to be put it on the front burner in America, and by supporting CANCER MISSION 2020, you can help us do so.

11,000 people die each week from cancer. That’s unacceptable. What’s worse is that these people do not live in a vacuum. They’re our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends, or in my case, my child, Teddi.

I ask that, in 2015, you make a true effort to inform your friends and family about CANCER MISSION 2020. It’s a true grassroots movement, and your help can make an impact. CANCER MISSION 2020 will save money in research efforts, as well as time. Research will be required to be reported, even if it has failed.  

Special thanks to all those who have responded to our call for help in obtaining signatures for the CANCER MISSION 2020 Petitions, both online and in person.  Thousands and thousands have signed the petition and we continue that effort, as there is strength in numbers and we need that strength to demonstrate to our leaders that we want cancer to be a top priority.  Please share the CANCER MISSION 2020 Petition with your network – people can sign online or download hard-copy petition sheets at www.cancermission2020.com

This New Year, I have made it my resolution to blog more, and keep you all informed as to the progress of Camp Good Days, and CANCER MISSION 2020.

To those who would like to get more involved this New Year, and made a resolution to volunteer, please check out www.campgooddays.org, and be sure to tune into the Camp Good Days Radio Show, which airs the first Thursday of every month at 5:30 PM on 92.1 FM/1040 AM WYSL Radio.