Camp Taylor received a special visitor recently when Colin Kaepernick joined the free camp for local children with heart disease for a day full of fun in the pool, singing and more. Camp Taylor holds a special place in Kaepernick’s heart, as his parents lost two children to heart disease at a young age.
It was hard to tell who had more fun at the recent camp session: Kaepernick or the kids.
“He truly has a heart of gold,” Camp Taylor Executive Director and Founder Kimberlie Gamino said. “He was supposed to come for three hours but he stayed for seven. He has this unique ability to connect with kids and they just loved him back.”
Kaepernick’s parents, Teresa and Rick, also joined their son to the camp event. Before Colin was adopted by Teresa and Rick, they lost two sons at young ages due to heart disease. Quietly, Kaepernick donated a part of his first NFL game check to Camp Taylor and has since formed a strong bond with the organization.
“I was looking for an organization that helped kids with heart defects,” Kaepernick said. “My parents told me about it growing up, but it was something they kind of opened up about more as I got older so they could really explain how it was and how it affected them. For my family, for my parents, I thought it would be a good thing to do out of respect for them and love for them.
“It’s a tragedy that they’ve gone through and if in any way I can help people going through that or try to prevent that, I want to do anything I can to help that cause.”
Gamino founded Camp Taylor in 2002 as a free outlet for California children to enjoy activities after her son, Taylor, was born with half a heart. Based out of Salida, Calif., which is nearby Kaepernick’s hometown of Turlock, Calif., Camp Taylor runs events throughout Northern and Central California.
Both Kaepernick and Camp Taylor said they look forward to a long-lasting relationship in the future.
“It’s developing into something beautiful,” Gamino said. “I think the kids love seeing him come in and it’s great for his parents. It’s really a win for everyone involved.”
For more information, visit kidsheartcamp.org
[PHOTO: Kapernick joins campers for a dip in the pool.]
“Those kids were flying around,” Kaepernick said. “At the end of the day, I was like, ‘I need to go home and go to sleep. I’m worn out.’ Once you’re there for 10 minutes, you think to yourself, ‘Did these kids really have heart surgeries?’ You can’t tell. They were just so upbeat about it, happy to be at camp, happy to be doing things – you would have never known these kids have heart surgery.”
[PHOTO: Kaepernick and his parents, Rick and Teresa, join heart campers and Medical Director Kavin Desai for a heart education seminar.]
“They talked about the different heart problems each kid had and what it means,” Kaepernick said. “They were really teaching the kids about what’s going on with their bodies. I learned a lot, too.”
[PHOTO: Kaepernick with heart camper Makenna McCorvey learning about her specific heart condition during heart education class.]
“The young girl in this picture is showing me her heart and the problems that she had,” Kaepernick said. ” It was a very humbling experience. It was amazing to see how mature the kids are because they’ve gone through so much already.”
[PHOTO: Kaepernick enjoys his dinner with the Pirates table at Camp Taylor]
“I was part of the Pirates table at dinner,” Kaepernick said. “We had a whole chant and cheer and had to get up and stand up on our chairs to sing. It was a good time.”
[PHOTO: Kaepernick and his parents, Rick and Teresa, sing "This Little Light of Mine"]
“I got tricked,” Kaepernick said. “One of the doctors who was doing the heart education seminar asked me for my car keys. So I gave him my car keys and he goes up to the front of the room and asks, ‘Did anyone lose their car keys?’ I said, ‘Yeah, those are mine.’ So he looked at the kids and said, ‘You know what that means campers! If you lose something you have to come up here to sing and get them back!’ So I had to go up there and sing and I made my parents come up there to help me out.”
[PHOTO: Kaepernick joins Camp Taylor Executive Director and Founder Kimberlie Gamino, and her son, Taylor, the namesake of Camp Taylor. Taylor was born with half of a heart and has endured four open heart surgeries. His need to meet other children with heart disease is why Camp Taylor was founded back in 2002.]
“Colin’s motto is, ‘Against all odds’ and it rings true for not only him and his family but the entire Camp Taylor family,” Kimberlie Gamino said. ” He’s truly a hero in the sense of the word.”
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