The Camp Taylor Story
Congenital heart defects each year affect more than 40,000 U.S. newborns. Camp Taylor’s story is the story of one of those children.
In 1993, Kimberlie and Michael Gamino welcomed a son, Taylor, to their family, only to have doctors discover within hours of delivery that he had been born with half a heart, a condition known as Hypo-Plastic Right Heart Syndrome with intact ventricular septum. Uncertain as to how long their son would be in their lives, the couple did all they could to ensure Taylor experienced the fun, formative moments of childhood even while enduring four open heart surgeries and a stroke. These were dark days, with Taylor fighting for his life while seven chest tubes drained fluid off his upper body after one open heart surgery. The Gamino family lived at the hospital for months at a time.
By age 8, it became clear to the Gaminos that Taylor could not keep pace with his friends or participate in sports or other physical activities due to exhaustion and the threat of injury. Taylor came to understand that everyone at school knew he had a heart defect and saw him as “different.” This left Taylor feeling isolated and alone.
While continuing to progress medically, his parents recognized Taylor needed help with the daunting emotional and social challenges that accompany living with a life-threatening disease. The Gaminos saw the urgent need to connect Taylor with other children in similar circumstances but were shocked to discover no such program existed in Northern and Central California. Taking the initiative, the Gaminos established Camp Taylor.
Taylor is doing well today with the help of daily medications and limited physical activity. A graduate of Grace Davis High School in Modesto, California, he is currently completing his pre-requisites for nursing school. Just as important, he has taken an active role in Camp Taylor, serving as a counselor in its Mentor/Leadership program and overseeing the new Young Adult Program. He also shines as its leading public advocate, an impressive young man with a compelling story to tell about how Camp Taylor changed his life and the lives of thousands of other young heart patients. Taylor understands that without a heart transplant he could die early but his focus remains on the future. “My greatest fear is that Camp Taylor will not be here for the next generation of kids that survive,” he says. “Camp has to continue.”
Taylor's 2018 Update
Taylor is doing Awesome! Our camp namesake is currently completing his pre-requisites for nursing school. He's definitely fighting the odds with a strong single ventrical and no symptoms of concern.
Taylor oversees our new Young Adult Program (YAP) and he's also a counselor over the male mentor/leadership program. He continues to shine a light on CHD with public speaking to spread greater awareness while raising funds for our organization.
When Taylor was 17 years old, he voiced his dream during Giving Tree Time at Teen Camp, "I understand and accept the fact that I will die early from heart disease, that isn't my greatest fear. My greatest fear is that Camp Taylor could not be here for the next generation of kids that survive. It's changed our lives and helped us cope. Camp has to continue. Camp Taylor not existing in the future is my greatest fear." ~Taylor James Gamino
This brutally honest statement caused our camp founder to pause and set a course to guarantee camp programs for decades moving forward. Building a permanent camp facility became the long-term goal after hearing Taylor share these transparent concerns. Stay tuned for Building Taylor's Dream.
Taylor, 5 years old
Fontan surgery recovery