This summer will mark 40 years for Camp Good Days and Special Times.
From the beginning, Camp Good Days has helped children with cancer and their families with the life-changing diagnosis. Founder Gary Mervis knows the challenge all too well. He lost his daughter Teddi to cancer, but not before she inspired Camp Good Days. Mervis discussed the milestone Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.
“I can’t believe it,” Mervis said of reaching 40 years. “No one is more surprised than I am because Camp Good Days was really never planned. It was never anything I ever thought about doing, or wanted to do, or went to school for, but they say life works in mysterious ways. In fact, a week ago I was a commencement speaker at out at Brockport for their graduate program and my whole thing was adapt and adjust because if you can learn how to do that then you’ll be okay in life. And that’s what I had to learn how to do. Right from the time in 1979 when Teddi went through seven and a half hours of a craniotomy only to be told by the neurosurgeon that they couldn’t get it all, and they wanted to start eight weeks of radiation my life changed and that of my family’s and it’s never been the same.”
Over the last 40 years thousands of children and their families have been touched and helped by Camp Good Days. The impact is almost impossible to quantify. “I never could have imagined it and, in fact, probably over the last five or six months I’ve been doing a lot of going through old boxes that when we moved from one office to another we just packed them up and sealed them up,” said Mervis. “I am trying to go through and pull out some things and it’s just amazing to see – from a little boy who, when we started the Teddi Project which was a wish fulfillment program, who his wish was to go to Las Vegas – he was like 15 – play the slot machines and meet a showgirl. That was his wish and we did it!”
Thanks to generous support from the community, all the programs offered by Camp Good Days are free of charge for children and their families. Each summer, campers make their way to Branchport right on the shore of Keuka Lake for a one-of-a-kind camping experience. “I think it’s the way the world should really be,” Mervis said of the camp. “Camp Good Days was built with love. It was a lot of people giving of themselves – their blood and their sweat and their treasure – and they helped make Camp Good Days possible. And for the children who have come there, the children that will come there this summer, and children in the future it’s like their Mecca. It’s a place where they can be kids, where they can be themselves. They don’t have to worry about somebody making fun of them because they lost their hair, or they have horrible scarring, or they might have lost an arm or a leg. We had a young lady who lost her eye because of cancer. In their normal life they always feel different, and they’re always afraid that people are looking at them. At Camp Good Days they don’t have to be afraid of that, they can just be who they are.”
For more information about Camp Good Days and Special Times, and the programs available to children with cancer and their families, visit CampGoodDays.org.
In addition to Camp Good Days, Mervis also initiated Cancer Mission 2020. To hear our entire conversation, click the link below.