Friday, April 17, 2009

Charity is no easy task

From the 20 April 2009 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

We’ve heard time and time again that giving back to the community is such an easy task. It may be for some folks somewhere. But, it’s definitely not that easy in New York State. My friend Todd Sheridan knows that too well.

Todd is a junior at the College at Brockport where he is the starting goaltender on the hockey team. For the third season in a row, Todd has set the school’s record for goals-against-average. That’s quite the amazing achievement because Todd was never supposed to be one of the best goalies in Division III. As a matter of fact, he was never supposed to play college hockey at all.

In 2005 Todd noticed a painful lump in his neck. It was diagnosed as cancer and the doctors thought the prognosis was grim. But they engineered a successful surgery in which they cut him from ear to shoulder, removing 72 lymph nodes in the process. After the surgery the doctors upped his chance of survival to 70 percent. Because of his loss of weight and the damage that the surgery unleashed on the muscles of his upper body, he was given a 100 percent chance of never playing hockey again.

Todd beat cancer then he beat the odds, proving that he could remain successful on the ice. That story is remarkable in itself, but it’s what Todd is doing off the ice that matters most.

While in hospital, Todd grew attached to the young children at the clinic, all of whom were battling cancer. He found sadness in their plight. Some of his young friends passed away and were never able to experience the teen years and adulthood that many of us take for granted. But, Todd also found strength for his own recovery by watching other children beat their cancer. He often relates stories of how these little troopers maintained their composure and lived life with as much vigor as they could, never giving in and always looking forward, doing what they could to comfort their heartbroken moms and dads.

It is to those children and all those like them that Todd has dedicated his second chance at life. Using his hockey success as the backdrop, he devised a charity called “Saves For A Cure” (SFAC) that would collect from businesses and other donors $1 for every save that Brockport goalies make over the course of a season. Proceeds would be used to buy TV’s, toys, and other comforts for the children’s cancer clinic in Rochester, helping the youngsters weather the most difficult days of their lives. It is a brilliant concept and, more importantly, one that is worthwhile and touching.

Sadly, the path to making this a reality has been strewn with obstacles.

In March of 2008 Todd signed the Certificate of Incorporation for SFAC. Over a year has passed and SFAC is no further along. The application process is still ongoing. That may sound unbelievable to some, but remember, this is NY we’re talking about.

The original application said, among other things, that SFAC would educate the public about cancer and promote research in beating the disease. Last May the Department of State announced that the Department of Education would not give consent for the organization to have those as corporate purposes, believing SFAC was unfit to educate the masses. Yes, the State actually thought that someone who had and beat cancer, and experienced its harsh reality, was ill-prepared to speak of it and advance its study!

That language was struck from the application and months went on with no word from the State. So, in September I wrote the Governor’s office which then awakened the slumbering process. The document was forwarded to the Department of Health whose legal department found fault with SFAC donating money and equipment to hospitals. Yes, the State actually thinks it wrong that someone would be charitable to cancer patients!

Here it is, April of 2009, and Todd is still waiting for NY to incorporate SFAC. The hockey season has come and gone and Todd’s junior year is nearly over. Because of the bureaucracy, he was unable to proceed with fundraising as he hoped. His senior year - his final season - starts this Fall, which really isn’t as far away as it sounds. He’s hoping to get the okay from NY soon, so, in his last year, he can lay the groundwork for SFAC so when his college career is over and he has moved away it can thrive and make a significant difference on the lives of Upstate’s youngest cancer patients. But, alas, NY’s continued silence speaks volumes about what it thinks of his dream.

Who said being charitable was easy?

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