Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Losing Two Very Special People

Things at Camp Good Days continue to be extremely busy as we transition from being down at camp to being full-time at our headquarters in Mendon.  Added to the busyness was the recent news that two very special people to Camp Good Days and to me personally had passed away.

Laurie Allinger was one of our original campers.  She was a beautiful young lady who, following her cancer diagnosis, lost one of her arms and all of the supporting tissue around it.  Despite this, Laurie never let anything stand in her way of living life to the fullest.  I will always remember being up at Camp Eagle Cove in the early years and watching the children participate in our archery program, and seeing this beautiful young lady putting the bow between her toes, sitting on the ground, and pulling the string back to shoot the target, and very often making bulls eyes.  I remember her on Canandaigua Lake doing wind surfing by holding the rope in her mouth, with I and many of our volunteers marveling at her enthusiasm and how she would not let anything stand in her way.  If there was a poster child for camp’s first two years, it was Laurie. 

From the very first year, she bonded with my daughter, Teddi, and in fact I still remember the day that they proudly came up to me and told me that they were blood sisters.  Laurie was always there for Teddi.  After the first summer at camp, Teddi had a recurrence of her cancer which caused her to have a lot of challenges.  Teddi was confined to a wheel chair because of the excessive amounts of radiation she went through and she had gone blind because the brain tumor had grown and shut off her optic nerve. Laurie loved Teddi and made a large effort to include her in everything she did, despite Teddi’s unique challenges that she had.  Teddi died from her cancer on February 27th of 1982 and Laurie just died from the side effects and challenges of her cancer in September of 2019.  All those years that Laurie had weren’t always good ones and the illness took a large toll on her body.  It was tough learning about her passing and further learning that her death was not an easy one, but the consolation is that I know that she is in heaven with Teddi and all of the other children and volunteers from Camp Good Days, and that she is no longer in any pain.  I can picture Laurie and Teddi once again renewing their special relationship. 

The second passing I learned about was the passing of Bat McGrath.  I really didn’t know Bat until some of our volunteers had an idea to have a concert featuring some music artists who got their start here in Upstate New York.  Bat was one of the first people who was asked and agreed to do it.  Unfortunately, the concert never happened because of the flooding that had occurred down at camp, resulting in over a half of a million dollars in damages.

Later on, when Bat travelled from his home in Nashville to visit this area, he decided to visit camp and see it for himself. He said that when he was going back home, he had the desire to write a song about Camp Good Days.  One day, my assistant told me that she had received an email from Bat along with a song that he had written about camp.  It was difficult for me to hear it and understand it, so I had my assistant email him back and ask if he could send it to me on a CD.  Bat went out, rented a studio and recorded the song so that I could have a CD version of it.  When I listened to it, I fell in love with it, and I shared it with my staff who also fell in love with it.  So, I invited Bat when he came back the next summer to actually come to camp and see camp in session and play his song, which he did with his wife.  While he was at camp, he said it would be great if we could put a video with the music so that I or my staff could use it when we made presentations about Camp Good Days.  So, Bat made some calls to his friends and he got someone who would be able to create a video for the song.

A few days before Christmas that year, I got a call from the person who put the video together asking if I could come out to their office and see the finished product.  And I have to admit, I was a little taken aback not only because the video was so well done and so beautiful, but because, unbeknownst to me, they had slipped in a few videos of Teddi and I.  I have to say, if I have used that video once, I have used it 100 times and every time I do, I feel so fortunate that Bat came into my life. 

Like many of you, I am sure; I was shocked to learn that he had been diagnosed with cancer last year.  And when I had heard that he was going to play some of his music at Lovin’ Cup, I called one of the owners, Leslie Zinc, to ask if she could get me into the sold out show, and she made sure that Wendy and I had seats at his last concert.  It was emotional to see him because he had lost probably 40 pounds and he was weak, but the showman that he was, he stood and performed for the whole concert, and then he even had CDs available that he sat down to sign for his fans.  Every time I see that beautiful video, I will think of him.

I wanted to write this blog because I think it is important that we recognize these two very special people.  In Bat’s case, we are going to dedicate the music hut at camp to him.  And then for Laurie, we will do a special activity at camp in her honor next summer. 

If you would like to see the video of Bat’s song, please follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biQWpUcRvbY.

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