History & Legacy
In 2009, Camp LUCK was born from the merged passions of four people. Jay “Bird” Thompson and Dr. René Herlong, a Pediatric Cardiologist, envisioned a summer camp for children with congenital heart disease. They proposed this idea to Levine Cardiac Kids, where they met enthusiastic heart mom Kim Jackson and her son Jacob, a former heart camp attendee in California. This team’s passion ignited the creation of Camp LUCK.
The journey began in 2010 with a successful Family Camp for Levine Cardiac Kids. We formed a Board of Directors post-camp and started planning a Kids Camp. Unfortunately, Jacob passed away that year after heart surgery. His dream sparked a bonfire within our community, fueling our resolve to continue Camp LUCK as his legacy. In 2012, we launched our first Kids Camp at YMCA Camp Cherokee, growing annually thanks to our founders, volunteers, staff, donors, and heart families.
In 2012, we launched our first Kids Camp at YMCA Camp Cherokee, growing annually thanks to our founders, volunteers, staff, donors, and heart families.
Dr. René Herlong, our inspirational co-founder, served as Camp Cherokee’s Medical Director and Sanger Heart & Vascular Clinic’s Chief of Pediatric Cardiology. More than a doctor, he was a mentor and song leader at Kids Camp, deeply impacting our campers’ lives.
Though we lost Dr. René in 2020, his and Jacob’s legacies profoundly shaped Camp LUCK.
For over a decade, Camp LUCK has significantly impacted thousands, adhering to our belief that “Camp is more than a place; it’s an attitude, and changing attitudes changes lives.”