More than 40,000 children are born with heart defects in America each year, making heart disease the nation’s leading birth defect. Children with heart disease often miss out on many of childhood’s most cherished experiences, as the regimen of medication and surgery prevents many of these children from participating in recreational activities.
Kimberlie and Michael Gamino of Modesto were determined to change that.
In 1993, Kimberlie and Michael welcomed a son, Taylor, to their family. Doctors soon discovered that he had been born with half a heart, a condition known as Hypo-Plastic Right Heart Syndrome. The Gamino family virtually lived at the hospital for months at a time, but they remained determined to ensure that Taylor experienced the fun and formative moments of childhood even while enduring four open-heart surgeries and a stroke.
As Taylor grew older, the Gaminos saw the urgent need to connect Taylor with other children in similar circumstances. But they were shocked to discover no such program existed in Northern and Central California.
That’s when the Gaminos took the initiative and established Camp Taylor.
Since its inception in 2002, Camp Taylor has empowered the pediatric cardiac community to overcome the challenges of growing up with heart disease by providing a safe environment for children to meet other children fighting similar health challenges. Camp Taylor, now located on the banks of the San Joaquin River, offers opportunities for both young patients and their families to experience the joys of the outdoors in a medically secure environment with a team of over 40 doctors and nurses who volunteer their time.
When the organizers of Camp Taylor shared their plans for the new location at the site of the long closed Stanislaus County honor farm, I was determined to help them achieve their vision. The opportunity to transform this picturesque 22-acre property into a camp for young people and their families is a tremendous benefit to our community and to the entire state.
Earlier this year our teamwork paid off and we secured $2 million in the state budget to build out Camp Taylor. This funding will allow the camp to retrofit and upgrade the remaining buildings to better serve these young people year-round.
It is my distinct privilege to promote this program and give campers from throughout the state an opportunity to get outside, make life-long friends and bond with their families in a safe and supportive environment.
Today, Taylor is doing well and remains active with the camp that bears his name. Please join Taylor and the many other members of our community who support Camp Taylor at this weekend’s “Growing Hearts” event, which takes place at the camp on Sept. 22. Please visit www.kidsheartcamp.org/growinghearts for more information.
Adam Gray represents the 21st Assembly District, which includes Merced and part of Stanislaus counties.