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Fundraiser benefits Circle of Champs

On the sunny links of the Colonie Golf and Country Club, community members came out in force Monday, Sept. 22, to support families dealing with life-threatening illnesses.

The Guilderland Chamber of Commerce hosted the golf event that featured raffles and contests to raise money for Guilderland YMCA's Circle of Champs program.

Brian Robinson, the Senior Program director at the YMCA said the Circle of Champs program is designed specifically to help children and families who have been affected by life-threatening illness.

It's based for the children, but everyone participates. It's a whole family activity, Robinson said.

He said the program has been around for 16 years, eight of which were associated with the YMCA.

The program gives families an outlet each month to take their mind off of the stress of dealing with the illnesses, Robinson said.

Activities have included "haunted hayrides," Albany River Rats games, Yankees games and shows at Proctors.

It also features summer camp programs at Camp Nassau.

The group was founded by brothers Jay and Todd Vandervort, Sandy Nardoci, Rob Narzarian, Jasmine Johnson, who died 18 months ago from AML, an advanced form of leukemia, and her aunt, Dale Gersh.

Gersh has another niece suffering from AML, but she said that she is doing well and is highly functional.

She said that the spirit of the organization is to allow the families to cope with the illnesses and to provide an outlet for the siblings of sick children to feel like they are not left out or forgotten about.

"When a child gets diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the other children suffer as well, because they fall through the cracks," Gersh said.

She said it allows the siblings to get out and have fun, something they might not often get a chance to do.

Nardoci said she was pleased with the turnout of the event and was glad for the great weather.

"I'm thrilled that we have people that will come out and support the charity," she said. "We need our community to come out and support us, and to see everyone come out on a Monday -- a work day -- it's a very wonderful thing."

Kathy Burbank, the executive director of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce, said Circle of Champs is a great local program, and she was happy to help support it.

"We try to pick [a program] that's local, or serves the Guilderland area," she said.

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