In the parlance of children born with heart defects, Kayla Safdari, 10, is saddled with disorders known as “single ventricle” and “dextrocardia.”
Simply, her heart is inverted in her chest. She wears a pacemaker.
Much of her support comes from two sources: her companions at Camp Taylor and especially the man who stood behind her, literally and figuratively, Monday at the Del Rio Country Club.
“It really helps me because I realize there are other people out there that went through what I went through,” Kayla said.
Upon hearing those words, Colin Kaepernick – the towering football player nearby – wore a smile the size of Turlock. He loves kids, especially those who fight for their lives as hard as he works to win on the football field. The San Francisco 49ers’ charismatic quarterback would do anything to improve their plight.
Kaepernick did something, all right, during his second annual “Against All Odds” benefit golf tournament. The event that raised $219,000 last year for Camp Taylor, the Salida-based organization that helps children such as Kayla, figures to do at least as well this year, if not better.
His public appearance at Camp Taylor three years ago has grown into a love affair. Kaepernick feels a personal and emotional connection to the kids, given that his mother, Teresa, lost two infant boys to heart disease.
“My first time at Camp Taylor, we were in the swimming pool. Not once did the kids ask me about the tattoos. They have scars from surgeries,” he remembered. “Ultimately, it wasn’t about the skin. It’s about who you are.”
Kaepernick has parlayed his popularity into a personal crusade. The 184-player tournament and the dinner for 320 Monday night were sold out. Fans of the 49ers paid princely sums for the right to play a few holes with the local product who’s already led his team to the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship Game.
His “Against All Odds” event, named for the scripted words inked across his chest, provides Kaepernick a sense of satisfaction. Not only does he assist the children who clearly need him, he also bonds with fans willing to help.
Kaepernick’s joy at Del Rio was hard to miss. He’s a happy man these days. Two weeks ago, he signed a six-year, $126 million contract, which was hailed as a realistic statement for a young and growing quarterback. Much of his money will be awarded on merit, and he won’t financially strap the franchise along the way.
Last week, he learned that no charges would be filed against him regarding the troubling incident in Miami involving him, two teammates and a woman who awoke in a hospital.
“Miami is over and done with,” he declared. “There was nothing there.”
Rick Kaepernick, Colin’s father, also appeared relieved. He was present when his son signed the lucrative contract.
“What the contract means is he has to perform,” Rick Kaepernick said, “but when has a big contract been signed where you don’t have to perform? You know, he hasn’t spent a penny yet. We’re just pleased with the 49ers and their willingness to meet with us.”
Rick Kaepernick also was straightforward regarding the Miami episode. “We knew what the deal was,” he said. “Sometimes silence is better, but it was hard not to go out and say it (that he had done nothing wrong).”
Colin Kaepernick, 26, already has accomplished great things while feeling the sting of major disappointment. The Pitman High graduate has fallen two completed passes shy of a Super Bowl victory and a second straight appearance in The Big One. Like many athletes, the shelf life of the losses lingers longer than the wins.
“They stay with me,” he said. “I still remember the back-to-back losses to Grace Davis.”
His sometimes rocky off-season, after the heartbreak against the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, finally has stabilized. Now it’s time to address the 2014 season. He had company at Del Rio in fullback and former roommate Bruce Miller.
“I wanted to show my support for him and the kids,” Miller said.
Yes, you can assume Kaepernick and his heavier wallet will open even wider for his friends at Camp Taylor.
Said the grinning quarterback, “They will be getting another check.”