Fred Sarkis Oct 13, 1999 helping kids
Self-made Self-made Self-made millionaire making kids' lives better Fred Sarkis has sw itched from developing ski and golf resorts to helping to build up young minds. BY STAFF WRITER JACK JONES SOUTH BRISTOL By any conventional measure of success, Fred Sarkis has done well. He built a coffee vending service service into an enterprise he sold for $2 million in i960 when he was 34. He used the profits to build the Bristol Mountain ski resort and Bristol Harbour golf course, marina marina and condominium complex on Canandaigua Lake. Now, at 73, Sarkis is doing good for underprivileged and sick children. children. "I never dreamed that I could have so much impact on the young," said Sarkis, who last year began working with school groups near his home in Florida at the request of a retired priest there who learned of his Horatio Alger, rags-to-riches rags-to-riches rags-to-riches rags-to-riches rags-to-riches life story. "It's true what they say," Sarkis said. "You get so much more when you give from your heart." Sarkis says he turned to prayer as an answer to a series of financial financial crises that nearly wiped out his bank accounts while he was building Bristol Harbour, and again eight years ago to overcome prostate prostate cancer. "I'm truly thankful for the good fortune that I've been blessed with in my life," said Sarkis, the oldest of eight children born to Lebanese immigrants who survived by selling selling fruits and vegetables door-to-door door-to-door door-to-door door-to-door door-to-door in Rochester neighborhoods. "My goal at this time is to give back in the best way I can." The man who has made, lost and re-made re-made re-made millions during his lifetime this summer studied clownology and began performing skits to raise money for children with cancer at Camp Good Days and Special Times. He also started working as a volunteer with the Rochester area Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, program, drawing on his own difficult difficult childhood to tell and act out stories with lessons to amuse adults and inspire children. He is writing about that childhood childhood in an autobiography titled Prisoner of the Truck. The book is about his struggle to escape from an onerous childhood, working weekends and summers 15 hours a day on the family's vegetable truck, and spending what spare time he had studying "my school books and a Bible," he said. "Fred's paying gig as a clown was this summer at Oak Hill Country Country Club, and he donated his fee to Camp Good Days," said Bill Coleman, a retired school teacher who also is an active volunteer with youth groups. "He's always out there contributing." University University of Rochester executive vice president Richard Miller concurred. concurred. "When I first met Fred, I was on my way to the war in Vietnam and Fred was working with my father on the United Way campaign," campaign," Miller said. "A few days later, I got a letter from Fred saying saying that he and his family would ' "f .7 " - ,f ft ' -l -l "' 1 -, -, ' V' ". V 'J mnt i ' I 1 AIMEE K. WILES staff photogn Giving back Fred Sarkis at Bristol Harbour Condominiums on Canandaigua Lake. He built the development and also lives there. phct say a prayer for me every night at their dinner table until I came home. "Whatever the cause, Fred is one of the most passionate people people I have ever known." Sarkis, who spends his summers at the Bristol Harbour condominium condominium he built overlooking Canandaigua Lake, is using the persuasive salesmanship he learned as a child peddling produce produce .door-to-door .door-to-door .door-to-door .door-to-door .door-to-door to advance his current cause. He has initiated a local "Fortunate "Fortunate 500" effort, seeking contributions contributions of $100 each from 500 contributors contributors to fund programs for Big Brothers and Big Sisters. "We are blessed to have Fred as an advisory member supporting supporting expansion of Big Brother and Big Sister programs to more children children throughout Ontario and Wayne counties," said Peter Pec-oraro, Pec-oraro, Pec-oraro, director of the program. Sarkis wants to help children because, in the introspective process of penning his autobiography, autobiography, "I realized that my own childhood was stolen, in a sense," he said. "But I don't regret a thing. I never felt better, and I never had as much fun in my life as I'm having having right now. This is the kind of work that really makes an old man like me feel good."