Camp LUCK, Lucky Unlimited Cardiac Kids, began when the passions of four people merged. Jay “Bird” Thompson and René Herlong had a vision of creating a summer camp for children with significant heart disease. They pitched this idea to a meeting of the family support group, Levine Cardiac Kids. At that meeting, they learned that they had two very enthusiastic partners in Kim Jackson and her son, Jacob. Jacob had been to a similar camp in California, and he and his mother were eager to provide local kids with a similar opportunity. This melding of passions was the spark that ignited others to join in on the effort, and Camp LUCK was born.
Family Camp was an introduction to the idea of a future Kids Camp for the families in Levine Cardiac Kids, and it was a resounding success. After our first Family Camp, we formed a Board of Directors and began the hard work of creating a Kids Camp. Several months after our first Family Camp, Jacob Jackson died after his last of many surgeries for his heart defect. The Camp LUCK community was devastated, but we all knew how much Jacob wanted to have a Kids Camp for his friends with heart problems. Jacob’s death turned that spark into a bonfire! All of us were re-energized to create this camp as Jacob’s legacy.
We have had our annual family camp since 2010. Our inaugural Kids Camp was held in 2012 and continues to grow each year. Jacob has been with us every step of the way. His initials are on our logo, and his memory is forever in our hearts. We believe that there is no finer legacy than Camp LUCK. We have brought joy to many kids and their families, and we’ve only just begun! Come join in on the fun!
Rene’ Herlong, or “Dr. Rene” to the kids, was one of Camp LUCKs founders. As a pediatric cardiologist on the front lines of treating children with heart disease, he realized that he wanted to do more than just treat them medically – he wanted them to have life-changing experiences outside of the hospitals where they spent so much time.
We were heartbroken to lose our beloved Dr. Rene’ in 2020, but his vision for Camp LUCK is still very much alive. His legacy has carried forward in the Carolinas and his heart is still here in many ways.
He was born in Rock Hill, SC, and graduated from Northwestern High School. He completed his undergraduate degree at Davidson College and attended Duke University School of Medicine where he also completed his Fellowship in Pediatric Cardiology. We were blessed that he chose Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center as his professional home. He affected so many lives as the Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Levine Children’s and Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute.
Not only did Dr. Rene’ serve as our Vice President, he was our song leader at camp. He had a beautiful singing voice and you could hear him every summer singing his favorite tune, “the Camp LUCK song”, at Pow Wow. He told us that if he were a superhero, flying would be his superpower. This makes perfect sense because Camp LUCK allows kids to reach new heights. One of his favorite parts of Camp LUCK was eating ice cream and listening to the kids talk about life.
We are grateful for Dr. Rene’s vision and his immeasurable contributions and selfless support of Camp LUCK. We miss him terribly and hope that he received his superpower and is flying high with the angels.