Awash in tears and applause, the story of the ordeal of terminal brain cancer in preadolescent Teddi Mervis and the ""something positive"" her father, Gary, determined to make of it--a camp for all the kids with cancer. Buttino is the local journalism professor (St. John Fisher College, Rochester, N.Y.) recruited to memorialize Teddi by promoting the cause, or vice versa. To chronicle the period from her diagnosis in 1979 through her decline and death in 1982, including the first two camp summers, he reconstructs whatever scenes he can piece together from hospital records and the self-involved recollections of some 50 people. It's an undiscriminating patchwork: we learn more about what Nurse Barb said to Nurse Anne, or why Teddi's room assignment was changed, say, than about how her two teen-aged siblings coped with being upstaged by her growing symbolic prominence, and with the sufferings--sorrow along with stress--of being weighed down by her steady physical deterioration. Likewise, when Teddi (preparing to ""go over to the other side"") is baptized, we hear about godparenting Italian-American style, but not a word about the nagging ambiguity of religion in the Mervis home. The Episcopal priest becomes an authentic presence for Teddi (in contrast to the cast of well-meaning sentiment-groupies who populate the book, especially at camp), and he sums up the Mervis message: ""Suffering is only meaningless if we can't find its purpose."" Camp Good Days and Special Times came to embody that purpose for Gary Mervis after his short, unavailing search for a miracle cure for Teddi; a politico used to pulling the strings, he escaped his helplessness by crusading to raise money and consciousness. And with grand success: what began ten years ago as a volunteer-run week of camp for 63 kids has mushroomed into a national support system for afflicted families. Like the dynamics in the Mervis family, the logistics of operating the camp remain unexamined. All the inspiration here doesn't make up for the lack of substance and real animation: Even Teddi is only a paper hero.