New position: Executive director, Central Florida, Camp Good Days and Special Times, Tampa. Previous position: Director of special events, WCET-TV, Cincinnati
By FRED W. WRIGHT JR.
Published June 21, 2004
Judi Pawsat feels she has come back home, even though she's living in Florida for the first time.
Home, Pawsat said, is once again being involved with Camp Good Days and Special Times, a nonprofit organization that sponsors programs for children and adults with cancer. Pawsat was the organization's first paid employee, in 1982, when she went to work for Camp Good Days in Rochester, N.Y.
Now she heads up the Tampa Bay area chapter and helps plan the weekend and week-long programs, most of which are designed for children ages 7-17 with cancer or sickle cell anemia, and their siblings. There are separate programs for women with cancer and other extreme-need children, including children of parents with cancer, and there is a junior day camp for children ages 4-6.
Most children who attend Camp Good Days' programs are recommended by physicians and hospitals, Pawsat said, but any child who has been diagnosed with cancer or sickle cell anemia is eligible to attend with their siblings.
"A lot of these children know each other from the hospitals," Pawsat said. "It's nice (for them) to be with their cancer friends outside the hospital."
The organization, which was started in Rochester in 1979, was "the fourth camp in the country helping children with cancer," Pawsat said. Now there are many more such organizations, but Pawsat said she thinks Camp Good Days is "the only organization of its kind in the country that provides as many support systems for as many children as it does, and adults."
The Camp Good Days and Special Times in Tampa has been in operation for nearly 14 years, Pawsat said. Her new role includes rejuvenating and redesigning the organization's board of directors and, of course, to raise more funds.
"I need to raise awareness of the programs of the camp and the fact that Camp Good Days is here to help improve the quality of life" of children whose lives are touched by cancer, Pawsat said. "I need to build a board of directors that cares about these children and that can make things happen."
So far, Pawsat operates a one-person office in Tampa. But there are more than 100 area volunteers who help with the programs, most being offered at Rotary International's Camp Florida in Brandon. Programs provide a variety of activities for the children - music, arts and crafts, sports and sometimes area celebrities. The last program, in May, involved 56 children.
Pawsat grew up in Cincinnati and attended the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, both in Cincinnati, majoring in economics and accounting. As a volunteer, she helped organize a fundraising event for Camp Good Days and Special Times in 1979 in Pittsford, N.Y., and became the organization's first paid staffer in Rochester three years later.
She stayed with Camp Good Days until 1986, then relocated to Cincinnati where she worked first for Bethesda Inc., a large health care system, then was hired in 1989 by the Bethesda Foundation as a senior development officer.
While there, Pawsat ran four major fundraising campaigns a year, 75 percent of which went to Hospice of Cincinnati. She left the foundation in 1999 and worked for other nonprofit organizations, most recently as director of special events for WCET-TV, the Cincinnati PBS station. She took 2003 off, she said.
Although fundraising may seem a highly stressful role to be in, Pawsat said she is inspired by raising funds to help children. "What keeps my spirits up? Knowing if this person won't say "Yes,' maybe another will," she said. "I'll give everybody an opportunity to say "No.'
"It's a passion for me," she said. "I've always had a passion for this."
Pawsat, 59, has one adult child and two adult stepchildren.
Since moving to Tampa a few months ago, Pawsat said she has been busy "being a tourist. I'm trying to take in as much of St. Petersburg and Tampa, just to be a typical tourist, just to acquaint myself with many of the wonderful things here," she said.