Camp Chautauqua holds 11th annual charity event

Photos by David Prenatt Participants in the Pay It Forward event at Camp Chautauqua peruse some of the donated items for the live auction.

CHAUTAUQUA — The sun shone brightly on Camp Chautauqua over the weekend, but not nearly as brightly as the generosity of those who donated to the annual Pay It Forward charity event.

For 11 years, Camp Chautauqua co-owner Matt Anderson has spear-headed a fund raising drive through the Campgrounds of New York organization to benefit Camp Good Days, an organization which provides assistance to men, women and children with cancer..

During those years, Campgrounds of New York has raised more than $1 million, perhaps half of which has came from Camp Chautauqua itself.

“Everybody in this camp donates something, and they also buy things,” Anderson said. “The generosity is mind-blowing.”

Throughout each year, Anderson said, patrons of the campground and businesses donate things to the camp for this event. On the Pay It Forward weekend, the camp holds a silent auction, 50/50 drawing, a Chinese auction and a live auction. At 11 a.m., hamburgers, Italian sausage and hot dogs are made available and at 5 pm, a chicken dinner is offered. There are also games and music by a disc jockey.

Photos by David Prenatt Photos one and two - James McCauley Jr. of Camp Good Days and Camp Chautauqua co-owner Matt Anderson stand in front of the many donations received for the live auction in the Pay It Forward event.

Anderson said he also greatly appreciates the donation of time.

“The disc jockey, Matthew Porth, donates his time all day, and I have hundreds of volunteers donating their time,” he said. “Everyone comes together for this event and it’s the generosity that wins it.”

James McCauley Jr., director of community initiatives at Camp Good Days, agreed heartily. However, he also gives a great deal of credit to the Anderson family.

“I can’t say enough about Matt Anderson. He is the catalyst behind all of this,” McCauley said. “We are forever beholden to CONY and especially to Camp Chautauqua, Matt Anderson and the Anderson family.”

Camp Good Days is in its 44th year “of bringing love to life by helping kids and men and women dealing with cancer,” McCauley said. Ten or eleven years ago, the board of directors of Campgrounds of New York contacted Camp Good Days, saying they were interested in choosing the camp as a charity. Anderson, who was on the board of directors, along with another board member, came in person to interview representatives of the camp, he said.

“They liked what they saw and we’ve been in business with them every year,” McCauley said. “This year, CONY will have donated more than $1 million to Camp Good Days. I’m going to say that this particular camp (Camp Chautauqua) is responsible for more than one half million.”

Anderson said the decision to support Camp Good Days came about in an offhand way.

“Someone came to me and said ‘how can we get our name (the CONY organization) out there?’ I jokingly suggested picking a charity,” he said. “We went with Camp Good Days and it’s been a wonderful adventure.”

Last year, the Pay It Forward event raised more than $56,000, Anderson said.

“My goal is to be well over that,” he said.

Anderson’s goal was more than realized as by the end of the weekend, the event had raised $91,000.

“The generosity of people is so amazing,” he said. “When this world has so much controversy in it. This really shows how much generosity is in this world and how this can bring so many people together.”

Planning for the Pay It Forward event is no small thing. Anderson said the whole thing begins a year in advance.

“Tomorrow I will start getting donations for next year,” he said.

Anderson and his brother Don are co-owners of Camp Chautauqua, but it has been in the family since Roger and Janet Anderson and Matt’s father, Mark opened the camp in 1968. Anderson said he is glad the camp can be a vehicle to help others.

“Me and my brother and a lot of people here are fortunate because we don’t have cancer,” he said. “This is the way we pay it forward. Cancer hits everybody,”

McCauley that 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year. furthermore, he said 566,000 die every year.

“To put this into perspective, that means that one person dies every minute of every day from cancer,” he said.

Camp Good Days, whose recreational facility is on Keuka Lake in Branchport, N.Y., started out in 1979 as a childrens’ camp, McCauley said. But they soon began welcoming adults diagnosed with cancer, as well.

“We hold oncology camps year round,” he said.

All of the programs and services provided by the camp are offered free of charge for the participants, McCauley noted, and that is possible because of the generosity of so many individuals and organizations and the success of special fundraising events like this one.

It’s also possible through the leadership of people, such as Anderson, McCauley said.

“Matt Anderson is the driving force. So many camps have followed his lead,” he said. “We are looking at a person who works tirelessly to help people with this dreaded disease.”

For his part, Anderson would rather focus on the kindness that people show.

“I can’t say enough about the generosity of people,” he said. “That’s what it all comes down to.”


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