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Beard yields $4K plus for kids with heart disease
camp taylor
Camp Taylor founder Kimberlie Gamino spoke before the Manteca Rotary Club. With her from left are, Rotary President Nick Obligacion, Camp Taylor attendee Lucas Rietkerk, and program coordinator Jeff Shields. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

This is a story about a retired police chief, shaving a beard, a generous new enterprise in Manteca, kids with a lot of courage, people with heart, and a snowball effect.

Nick Obligacion — Manteca’s ex-top cop as well as current Manteca Rotary president and member of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce — started growing a beard a few months back. He decided it would come off if he could raise money for a good cause.

And that good cause happened to be Camp Taylor. It’s a free summer camp for children with heart disease. The all-volunteer group after 16 years has finally secured its own home at the former Stanislaus County honor farm that’s in need of a lot of work before it can open.

He announced his plans at a chamber coffee at Casino Real. He started the ball rolling by putting his money where is mouth is to the degree of $1,000. Joe Blackwell opened his wallet and put in $200.

Then later that day at a chamber ribbon cutting for the new Central Valley office of Guida Surveying at 415 North Main Street when area manager Landon Blake heard what Obligacion was doing, he contributed $100.

Blake then went to his boss — Ralph Guida IV — who tossed in another $700 plus a message to pass on to Camp Taylor founder and director Kimberlie Gamino. The message was this: Give Gamino his card and have her call him and Guida Surveying will do all of the surveying needed for construction and other property issues for free.

Obligacion now had $2,000 and an in-kind donation of surveying work worth much more.

But the story didn’t end there. The next day Camp Taylor was the subject of the Rotary program at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room thanks to arrangements made by Jeff Shields, the former South San Joaquin Irrigation District general manager.

Shields had become aware of Camp Taylor and kids dealing with heart disease after meeting Lucas — the 8-year-old son of his successor, SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields. Lucas worked in the kitchen ferrying pancakes during the Super Bowl Sunday Rotary Omelet and Pancake Breakfast at the MRPS Hall.

Shields was able to work with John Mangelos to secure commercial kitchen equipment needed for Camp Taylor from the Barnwood Restaurant that has been razed to make way for Ripon’s second Starbucks.

After Gamino’s presentation, Obligacion shared what had happened with his beard and the money he was able to raise. Then he added a $1,000 donation the Rotary board made. Topping that off, 12 members of the club stepped up to make additional donations of $1,000 each bringing the cash donations to $4,300.


Camp Taylor grew from

struggles with her son

Camp Taylor is the outgrowth of the struggles Gamino and her family endured after her son Taylor was born with Hypo-Plastic Right Heart Syndrome. Her son has endured four open heart surgeries and a stroke.

“The pediatric intensive care unit was an all too familiar place for our family,” she said. “As Taylor suffered I came to grips with the reality we would never know how strong or how long his heart would last.”

Unlike other children camps in the 209 where kids flock to the Sierra that is a no go for Camp Taylor attendees given issues attitudes can have on those with heart conditions. It is imperative the camp is within 20 minutes of an emergency room equipped to handle young heart patients. That’s why the opportunity to acquire the former honor farm on Grayson Road west of Modesto was a godsend.

Camp Taylor is the same endeavor former San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has lent his support to both financially and with time.

Youth can enjoy the traditional camp activities such as horseback riding and archery. They also offer heart education. The heart education involves an onsite medical team that explains each camper’s heart condition and answers their most pressing questions in a positive environment plus provides them with coping strategies. Dissecting pig hearts and studying 3D modules give attendees hands-on learning experience only found at Camp Taylor.


Letting them know

they are not alone

The Giving Tree Time provides coping skills and therapeutic communication that’s promoted each day in a cabin setting.

Camp Taylor offers youth camps, teen camps, and family camps as well as additional programs. The camps are all medically supervised with nurses handling all medications.

“The camp allows them to come together and know they are not alone,” Gamino said of youth campers dealing with heart disease.

Some 40,000 kids are born each year with heart disease.

The majority of the Camp Taylor attendees are from San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

A camp with 95 kids needs 52 volunteers including 10 medical personnel to operate. The medical personnel all volunteer as well.

Additional information is available at


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email