Much more than a game of football

Local News

When the College at Brockport hosted St. John Fisher College this Saturday at 6:00 p.m. in their annual football game, they’ll be competing for much more than the winning score.

Once again the proceeds from Saturday’s game will benefit Camp Good Days and Special Times, the locally based not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, adults and families whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life threatening challenges.

Camp Good Days founder Gary Mervis discussed this year’s Courage Bowl Monday during News 8 at Noon.

“It’s like making ten ‘Make-A-Wishes’ come true all at one time,” said Mervis of the Courage Bowl. “It takes my two loves. Obviously, Camp Good Days — which is my memorial to my daughter, Teddi — and football, which I spent the last 41 years, at one level or another, coaching.”

Mervis explained where the idea for the Courage Bowl came from. “When I got this idea, fourteen years ago now, I was stopped at the red light. The light turns, and I hear this woman yelling at her kids. I had just come from camp. I saw they were throwing around a Nerf football in the van. I said, ‘well, it’s that time of year.’ Football is so much a part of our culture that every red-blooded American boy, and probably some girls, are dreaming of scoring the winning-touchdown. Yet, the children that I just left at Camp Good Days, they can’t even dream about it. No doctor in his right mind is going to sign-off, and let a child who has been treated for cancer, play organized football. So as I’m driving, I said, “you know Gary, you should be able to do something about that.”

He continued, “At our next coaches meeting at Fisher, I said to our head coach, ‘what happens if we take our game with the U-of-R, because there’s no real travel involved, and we call it the Courage Bowl?’ The theme of Camp Good Days is ‘where courage knows no boundaries.’ We then picked a couple of  kids to be honorary coaches with us, and a couple of kids to be honorary coaches with the U-of-R. They attend a practice to meet the players and fellow coaches. They meet the team– which team is traveling; they’ll meet the team with their school. They attend the pre-game meeting with the players, get on the bus with the players, and then they’ll be in the locker room with the team. There’s always a night game, so they can lead their respective team and be at midfield, for the coin toss. Then for one night, they could be part of a college football team, up close and personal on the sidelines. We limited it to four kids, two for each team. As you know, for sidelines at the football game could be a pretty dangerous place, especially if you’re not the most agile and you can’t get around. We didn’t have any girls, because half the fun was being in the locker room with the players. For the next year, we were able to get two girls for each side to be honorary cheerleaders. We played the U-of-R for nine years, and then Alfred was kind enough to step in there. We’ve been playing Brockport for the past – it’ll be the fourth year. This year it’s at Brockport. If the weather’s good, like both times we played, we’ll play in front of over 9,000 people. They’ve got a beautiful facility there, so we’re looking forward to it.”

This will be the first Courage Bowl where Mervis will not be on the St. John Fisher sideline. He was on the coaching staff for 29 years before this season. He says he may spend one half on the Fisher sideline, and one half on the Brockport sideline. His heart will be with the children and families of Camp Good Days.

For more information about Camp Good Days and Special Times, and this year’s Courage Bowl, visit CampGoodDays.org.

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