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TURLOCK, Stanislaus County (CBS 5) – On Sunday, a lot of eyes will be San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but in the Central Valley, a lot of hearts are already beating in appreciation.
Kaepernick, who grew up in Turlock, has a big heart for a group of very special children: boys and girls born with the most common birth defect: congenital heart disease. Every year, roughly 40,000 kids are born with this disease.
“He was looking for something to donate his time and his name to he said ”I want to do something that will help kids with heart defects,” said his mother Teresa Kaepernick.
“This is before he signed his first contract,” said his father Rick, “which was really very, very encouraging; very satisfying and gratifying as a parent.”
Teresa and Rick Kaepernick lost 2 infant sons to congenital heart defects years before they adopted Colin. They were surprised and extremely touched when he decided to help these children.
“He’s reaching out and trying to help others,” said Teresa. “You want your kids to be that way.”
Kimberlie Gamino is founder and director of Camp Taylor, a summer camp for kids with congenital heart disease. Camp Taylor is located a few miles northeast of Turlock.
“For Colin to choose to help people with heart disease, it is a blessing that you can’t even measure because it’s made such a difference and given such a burst of love and joy to the kids that we serve,” said Gamino.
The summer camp is named after her son Taylor, who was born with half a heart. “He has undergone four open heart surgeries, and he suffered a stroke early on and he’s doing incredibly well today,” said Gamino.
At Camp Taylor, kids are kids: they forget about their scars, forget they even have heart disease.
The campers get to try new things that they could never do at home: horse back riding, swimming, archery, zip lines. All of these activities are designed to help the children build self-confidence.
They also get to make new friends with kids like themselves as well as with superstars like Kaepernick. His father said Kaepernick loves these kids.
“I thought one of the coolest things I saw was him spend hours in a swimming pool with the kids,” said Rick Kaepernick. “Not one kid asked about a tattoo. Colin didn’t ask about their scars. They were just kids.”
The camp’s medical director, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Kavin Desai of Kaiser Permanente and Packard Children’s Hospital said that 30 years ago, most of these kids would not have survived to adulthood but today they do and that’s why Camp Taylor helps.
“A 7-year-old who has a certain heart problem and then they see an 18- or 19-year-old kid who has exactly the same thing and they look at them and say ‘wow, I’m going to be ok, I can actually grow up and be like this person,’” said Desai.
For the camp, Colin Kaepernick has endorsed a new t-shirt: Kaepernicking for a Cause.
Anyone can buy one. And, part of the proceeds will help more kids be kids.
(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)