Against All Odds Tournament
They tugged at Colin Kaepernick’s pants and craned their necks to see him as though he were a mammoth sequoia. He cradled them in his arms, held their hands and shined a most genuine smile.
Kaepernick, to no one’s surprise, loves the Camp Taylor children, the youngsters fighting heart disease. They have a friend in Kaepernick, the quarterback of the 49ers by way of Pitman High School, and he returns their affection with his time, generosity and commitment to their cause.
“One of the great things about Camp Taylor is that it’s not just another charity event,” he said. “You actually get to see these kids and their families whose lives you’re trying to change.
“I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Kaepernick staged his third annual Against All Odds golf tournament, the fundraiser for Camp Taylor, on Monday at Del Rio Country Club. The event, which netted $540,000 for the Salida-based outreach organization over the first two years, is gaining momentum.
Teammates Bruce Miller, Aldon Smith, Kendall Gaskins and Dontae Johnson showed their support. So did his longtime friend and former 49ers roommate, Ricardo Lockette of the Seattle Seahawks, along with quarterback Tyrod Taylor of the Buffalo Bills.
Members of the 49ers’ staff, including four Gold Rush cheerleaders, also were there. The team plans a video of Kaepernick and his relationship with Camp Taylor.
Golf-wise, a full field of 172 teed it up on Del Rio’s three nines, followed by dinner for 300. In the middle of it all, Kaepernick posed for photographs, shook hands and acted like a proud dad.
When he’s with the kids – their attitudes upbeat and their steps lively – he doesn’t sweat about beating the Seahawks or the transition to a new coaching staff with the 49ers. He politely refrained from answering any football questions this day. His energy targeted Camp Taylor.
“It’s a reality check every time I’m around these kids,” he said. “You have kids that go through so many different things, struggles that I have no idea about. They run around with smiles on their faces and having a good time. It helps me realize how blessed I’ve been. I feel very blessed to be around these kids and be their friend and try to help them out.”
Kimberlie Gamino and her husband started Camp Taylor 13 years ago after their son, Taylor, was born with half a heart. Kaepernick lost two infant brothers to heart disease. Hence the connection, and the “Against All Odds” title comes from the tattoo across Kaepernick’s chest.
172 Participants in the Against All Odds golf tournament
His public appearance at Camp Taylor four years ago touched him to the point he did not want to leave. The Modesto and Stanislaus County community have jumped on board.
Taylor Gamino, now 21, watched Kaepernick’s interaction with the kids from a distance.
“Doctors help us live. Camp Taylor and Colin Kaepernick keep us alive,” Gamino said. “There is a difference.”
Camp Taylor is working on the purchase of its first permanent home at the site of the former Stanislaus County Honor Farm near Grayson. This would be a major breakthrough for the medically supervised free camp, and Monday’s event may bring the dream closer to reality.
“Camp Taylor means the chance to be normal and happy. They come to Camp Taylor to have fun,” said Kimberlie Gamino, the event director. “Colin has a heart of gold. He’s in this for all the right reasons and so is his family.”
Golfers had the chance to play a few holes with all the NFL players, and those who paid a special fee tried their luck with Kaepernick. He’s never happier than on Against All Odds day, when his presence means more than just a touchdown.
“It’s helped me grow as a person,” he said. “I treat them like they’re my kids.”
Check back later for a video from the event.