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,

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.