Written by Alan Offsie
There are many ways to Volunteer , all volunteering is worthwhile and each event has its rewards for everyone involved. My company grants us 3 Volunteer days per year.
For personal reasons most of my volunteering is related to supporting Cancer Research but for the last 12 years there is one volunteering event that has had the greatest impact on MY life.
Camp Good Days was founded by Gary & Wendy Mervis in upstate New York. They lost their daughter Teddi to Brain Cancer at the age of 9.
Gary and Wendy channelled their grief in an amazingly wonderful way by starting Camp Good Days for children fighting cancer, their siblings and children of parents fighting cancer. The one thing their daughter missed while battling cancer was camaraderie with other children going through the same experience since years ago there weren’t any organizations like Camp Good Days!
Each summer for the past 38 years these young campers spend a week or two in the Finger Lakes of NY (Keuka Lake) and get to smile, laugh and share life’s experiences in a camp that not only provides a fun filled atmosphere but also provides counselling and and medical supervision if needed.
The rest of their family get a short vacation away from the stress of caring for a sick child or from worrying that their child is missing out on life while the affected parent is going through various treatments to hopefully win their battle with cancer.
The Northeast Region of the NSX Club has made Kids Day at Camp Good Days an annual Club event.
We spent two days with the campers, this year the event was on July 17 and 18.
When we arrive on the first day the kids jump in and out of our cars honking horns, flashing lights and generally running down our batteries. Every one of them has almost as much fun as we do helping them in and out of the cars and telling them go honk that cars horn because it’s louder than mine. Larry Bastanza gave the camp a generous donation check to help support their efforts to keep Camp Good Days cost free.
On the second day the kids get an experience they’ll never forget. We take them in our cars onto Watkins Glen International Raceway and ride around the track at “reasonably high speed” in our cars. Watkins Glen is one of the foremost circuit race tracks in the U.S. and their management team donates time on the track to our club and we provide special insurance to enable us to give the campers this amazing experience. They aren’t usually smiling when they get into our cars, but by the time we finish our high speed adventure they’re not only smiling but asking “can I do that again” and we usually find time after taking almost 100 campers for a ride on the track to give some of them another ride to make their day complete. They’re then bused to the Glen Club an exclusive dinner club on the track where we serve them lunch and take a group photo so they can all remember this experience.
I have had the privilege in prior years to drive children with cancer as passengers but this year it was their siblings going out on the track, and we try to put smiles on faces that are heavy with the burden of dealing with family members who are at home trying to get well.
Each year we ask Gary and Wendy about kids we remember from past events and many times we’re told that sadly they lost their battle with cancer, but other times they say oh, she’s now in college and cancer free or he returned as a counselor this year to give back to the camp and he’s doing fine. All of us are glad we wear dark glasses at the track since we don’t want them to see the tears well up when we’re told a child we knew lost their fight with cancer. But we all know we had an impact on their life and for that ONE MOMENT on the track they were laughing, cheering and saying “can you go faster” and giving a child joy is why we keep going back year after year.
The amazing part about this camp is that no matter where these children come from in the US, the entire experience is “FREE” through fundraising and donations and the hard work of Gary and Wendy and their staff who spend the entire year raising funds to be able to keep the camp operating each summer.
As you can see volunteering can take many forms, but volunteering at High Speed is the way i give back, and my reward is the smile on children’s faces while sharing time with them zooming around in my NSX.
Check out some video here: https://youtu.be/aX63izFdVgQ