Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Fall Season Update

As we enter the month of November, there is so much happening, that I thought I would take a moment to share with you some updates through my blog since I don’t have a Facebook. 

As of this past October 1st, Camp Good Days began its 39th year of providing programs and services to children and families touched by cancer and sickle cell anemia.  One thing that I am very proud of is that volunteers are still the backbone of Camp Good Days, just like they were in the beginning.  Without all of these amazing people, there would be no Camp Good Days.  I am very blessed to have volunteers like Mike Falvo, Kathy Murphy, and Michelle Roach who have been here since Camp Good Days’ inception.  There were two promises I made when I started Camp Good Days: one was that I didn’t want Camp Good Days to be a bureaucracy, I wanted it to be a non-profit that made a real difference in people’s lives.  The second was that I wanted no family struggling with the question of “why did my loved one get diagnosed with cancer?” to then have to go through the financial anxiety of figuring out whether they could afford to send their child to camp while trying to make the rent or car payment on time.  Even if these families have good health insurance and both parents, which is not always the case, usually it is the mom who will put her career on hold to stay at home with the child or loved one, and so the family income will drop but the mortgage or rent payment will stay the same.  The families will be forced to dip into their savings, and then once that is exhausted, the only alternative is bankruptcy.  I didn’t want that to be the case for our families, and so I made the promise that all of our programs and services would be provided free of charge to the participants.  I have only been able to keep this promise because of so many generous people in our community who believe in Camp Good Days’ mission and because of the success of our special fundraising events, the largest of which is our Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in combination with our Camp Good Days Wine Auction Dinner. 

October was when we had our first programs of our 39th year with our Annual Men’s Prostate Retreat and our Women’s Wellness Weekend.  Our Men’s Prostate Retreat is a wonderful program that continues to grow every year.  Once again this year, we had some of the very best physicians in the field of prostate cancer attend including Dr. Louis Eichel, the Chief of Urology at Rochester General Hospital, Dr. Jean Joseph, the Director of the Center for Robotic Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Dr. Willie Underwood III, a Urologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.  Our Women’s Wellness Weekend also went great, and was very well attended with 50 women who participated.  The good Lord gave us beautiful weather, and I am always amazed to see the transformation of the women from when they arrive Friday evening to when they leave on Sunday morning. 

Next Wednesday, November 8, we are going to take our annual Fun Fest Trip to Orlando and Central Florida, where we take over 20 children with cancer or sickle cell anemia along with over 20 volunteers and staff who help to make each child’s experience one they will never forget.  It is an amazing thing to see a child take their first airplane ride, see the dolphins swim for the first time, or see Animal Kingdom and Universal Studios for the first time.  This trip is one of the highlights of the year for us at Camp Good Days and for the children who are able to go, and we are very excited for them to have this great experience.

We also have one of our most festive events coming up soon; the Annual Joe Benet Memorial Kazoo Fest, which will begin Black Friday and go until right before Christmas.  We are once again very thankful to have the support of JC Penney’s who allow us to set up tables in front of their mall locations at Greece Ridge, Eastview, and Marketplace malls here in Rochester.  So if you have the time while doing your holiday shopping, please stop by and say hello, and help support Camp Good Days by making a donation, or by buying a kazoo or candy cane pen.

There has been a big change in my personal life; after 27 years as an Assistant Football Coach at St. John Fisher College, Saturday, October 28 was my last home game with the team.  Even though the weather had turned to the typical Upstate New York fall weather of overcast, rainy, and cold, the team, despite their struggles this year, played to the best of their ability and wound up defeating Cortland State.  When I went home after the game, I couldn’t help but think back over the past 27 years about all of the young people who have played for me, and how each of them has touched my heart in a different way and left their impression on me.  I had a coach when I was younger who, when asked what kind of team he wanted, would say, “Ask me in 10 years and let me see what kind of young men these players become, and what kind of husbands and fathers they become.”  This idea of coaching is what I tried to base my coaching off of as well, and so I hope that in some small way, I have been able to touch their lives and help make them productive members of our society and good husbands and fathers. 


It is crazy to think that I have spent over a quarter of a century coaching at St. John Fisher, since it seems like yesterday that I started.  I think back to starting the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Huddle and being able to sponsor a number of football camps where I was able to bring in some great friends and professional players like Harvey Martin, Theo Bell, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, Todd Lexer, and Steve Christie to name a few.  Most of all, I remember being so excited to take the idea of the Courage Bowl and make it a reality; where children of Camp Good Days who are battling cancer can serve as honorary coaches or cheerleaders.  It is crazy to think that this year was our thirteenth Courage Bowl.  It has been a good ride at Fisher, and I am happy that, over the years, I have been able to help make the Fisher football team one of the best Division 3 programs in the country.  I will always remember our 2006 season where we finished 4th in the country.  I have had the opportunity to coach with some great teachers and coaches over the years including Jim Schichetti, Rodger Bunce, Bud Sims, Mike Fox, Andy Hendall, Blaise Faggiano, and many great young coaches including Rob Kramer, Chris Keyes, and most of all, being able to build a strong relationship with Coach Paul Vosburgh, who when he first came aboard, asked what my plan was, and I had said that I was going to stick around to see us beat The College at Brockport and the University of Rochester, and I am pleased to say that we have been able to do that.  Ending my time with the Fisher football team is bittersweet, and I am so honored to have been able to spend my time with a great team, and some very amazing people.   

I hope that you all enjoyed my update, and I will end my blog by saying that I wish you and your family a very happy and blessed beginning to your upcoming holiday season.