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Camp Good Days has a great partner in Courage Bowl

The Courage Bowl brought in a packed house.
Brockport State athletics photo by Bob Cushman

Gary Mervis was driving to the St. John Fisher campus one fall day about 10 years ago.

He couldn't get over the weather -- not a cloud to be found in the Western New York sky. As he took in the sun while stopped at a red light, he heard a woman's voice in the car next to him. It was a mother, urging her young son to stop throwing a football around the family van.

That's when the idea hit him.

Mervis was on his way to St. John Fisher from one of the offices for Camp Good Days and Special Times, a non-profit organization "dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, adults and families whose lives have been touched by cancer." Mervis founded the initiative in 1979 after his 9-year-old daughter, Teddi Mervis, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

Mervis' idea was simple enough -- give the kids of Camp Good Days a chance to experience something new, and to fulfill a dream they might never have another opportunity to. He wanted St. John Fisher and, at the time, Rochester to play a football game that meant more than just a win or loss.

From that thought, the Courage Bowl was born. And this past Saturday, Empire 8 newcomer Brockport State hosted St. John Fisher in Courage Bowl X.

"All of the programs and services that Camp Good Days provides are provided free of charge," Mervis said. "... The only reason we've been able to do this is because of some very generous individuals and the success of our fundraising events, of which now the Courage Bowl is one of them."

All proceeds from each Courage Bowl go to Camp Good Days. Last year's game between St. John Fisher and Alfred raised roughly $30,000. Mervis said the amount from this year's game isn't known yet, but a record crowd of roughly 9,400 painted a positive picture.

"I wouldn't be at all surprised if this year was more than that," Mervis said.

St. John Fisher beat Brockport, 36-20, and has won all 10 Courage Bowls. But this event has become much bigger than a football game.

"Our kids think it's tremendous and so do we as a coaching staff," St. John Fisher coach Paul Vosburgh said. "... The kids on both teams get a lot out of this, the community gets a lot out of it, too."

Each team in the Courage Bowl is assigned a handful -- usually three -- young boys from Camp Good Days to serve as honorary coaches. As such, the children attend practice, eat with the teams during the pregame meal, lead the teams out onto the field, take part in the midfield coin toss and spend the entire game on the sidelines. Likewise, a small number of young girls are selected to serve as honorary cheerleaders for both teams.

The honorary coaches and cheerleaders are announced at an annual luncheon, which is held the week of the game.

Additionally, both teams involved in the Courage Bowl make the trip down to Camp Good Days' recreational facility on Keuka Lake in Branchport,...

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Andrew Lovell

Andrew Lovell is an associate news editor for and a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has contributed freelance work to ESPN Rise and has been a regular contributor to since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing. A native of Hyde Park, N.Y., Andrew currently resides in New Britain. 

2006-10 columnist: Adam Samrov 


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