Friday, July 28, 2017

A Highlight of the Summer

It is hard to believe that this summer is almost halfway over, and needless to say, it has been a busy and exciting time.  One of the highlights for me each summer is the Ring of Honor Induction at our recreational facility, and this year, we will have an added dimension as we have two dedication ceremonies as well. 

The addition to the infirmary is being dedicated to Dr. Martin Klemperer and the other doctors who have been here for camp over the years.  Dr. Martin Klemperer is probably the most significant person in Camp Good Days history because we were the first camp in the country to be started by a layperson for children from several different medical centers.  While I was always confident that we could make Teddi’s dream a reality, I had to deal with the fact that no parent of a child with cancer would let their child go to camp in the early 80’s unless assured that their child’s medical condition could be well-managed and cared for.  I never worried about the children’s care when it was in the hands of Dr. Klemperer.  Even when he left the University of Rochester Medical Center to go to Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia and then to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he was the head of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, he always maintained his New York Medical License specifically so that they could volunteer at Camp Good Days each summer. After serving as one of our camp doctors for over 25 years, Dr. Klemperer retired.  The good Lord put Dr. Klemperer in my path, and because of him, Camp Good Days became a reality and is what it is today, and thousands of children with cancer have had the chance to experience this magical place firsthand.  It is a real honor to dedicate the addition to the infirmary to Dr. Klemperer and the doctors who have assisted him.

There is also going to be the dedication of the new pontoon boat at Camp Good Days in memory of Salvatore “Skip” DeBiase, Jr.  The boat will be used for boat rides and fishing excursions for the children. Skip DeBiase was my brother from another mother and one of my dearest friends over the years, and was one of the first people I talked to about starting a camp for children with cancer.  From the very first meeting when I brought up the idea of camp, to the day the good Lord took him, he was always there for me and for Camp Good Days. During the first summer of camp, Skip wanted to teach the kids how to fish on Fourth Lake.  He was very excited and went into the local town of Inlet to get supplies, but was discouraged by the locals who said that Fourth Lake was dealing with an acid rain problem and was dead.  Skip, ever the optimist, refused to believe that the lake was dead, and so he bought fishing poles and worms for the kids.  The next morning, Skip taught the kids how to bait the hooks and how to use a reel and cast.  After a few moments, the first child caught a fish, and after a few moments more, all of the kids on the dock had fish.  Skip was always very determined and he cared so much about the people around him.  He started the fishing program at camp, and to this day, fishing is one of the most popular activities at camp.  We are so grateful for the generosity of Skip’s family who donated the pontoon boat to Camp Good Days in his memory. Whenever people take a ride on the wonderful boat, they will see the picture of him helping a camper bait a hook on the plaque we are placing on the boat.

Camp Good Days could never be possible without people like our great volunteers, Dr. Klemperer and the other doctors who have helped at camp, and friends like Skip.  It is crazy to think that this is our 38th summer of programs, and I can only continue to thank the good Lord for all of the wonderful people he has put in my path on this incredible journey.