I am so honored to present not only one but, two Smarty Moms today, Kim Jackson & Adrienne Mauntel. Adrienne, I have known since high school and I’m privileged to learn more about Kim recently. These ladies’ came to know each other because of their son’s, Jacob & Ford. Both boys were born with heart defects and underwent multiple open heart surgeries. Each family was looking to connect with other families who had children with heart conditions. Their friendship continued and grew through the creation of Camp LUCK in 2010, a Charlotte-based non-profit serving families with children with congenital heart disease (CHD). As the organization’s name implies, Camp LUCK offers a medically supervised Family Camp and Kids Camp for CHD kids each summer. However, Camp LUCK is “More Than A Camp” as it provides a variety of non-camp related outreach programs for the entire heart family. They include Baby LUCK (for heart kids younger than age 7), an Annual Conference, Parent Support Network and Discharge Packets for kids who have recently had surgery. And the best part of all is that all programs are free of charge to CHD kids and their family! Camp LUCK strives to improve the lives of kids and families coping with congenital heart disease by empowering them to live life to the fullest.
Bringing a camp for heart kids to the Carolinas was a dream of Kim and Jacob. The two had been to a similar camp in California and longed for a similar opportunity locally. With the help of long-time Camp Directors, Rene Herlong and Jay “Bird” Thompson, Camp LUCK was born in 2010. Sadly, Jacob passed away after his last of many surgeries for his heart defect at the age of 17. The Camp LUCK community was devastated but 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 as the community was determined to create the camp as Jacob’s legacy. While Jacob was able to participate in the first family camp, the inaugural Kids Camp was not until 2012. However, Jacob was with them every step of the way. His initials are on the logo and his memory is forever in their hearts.
Kim is on the Board of Directors and on staff with Camp LUCK and Adrienne is also on the Board of Directors and the acting President of Camp LUCK which is a full-time volunteer position. These ladies work hard to give back to the CHD community day after day so other children can have the same experiences their children have so enjoyed! This amazing organization serves over 1000 CHD families each year. The strength of these two women is remarkable and their care & concern for others is as well. Please enjoy getting to know these two special women and learning about Camp LUCK. You’ll be inspired and touched I’m certain.
Smarty Moms: Kim Jackson & Adrienne Mauntel
Smarty Mom Stats:
Married to & years:
Kim: Wade Jackson 20 years
Adrienne: Eric Mauntel 13 years
Kim: Jacob (forever 17) and McKenzie 19
Adrienne: Ford (10) and Emma (8)
Adrienne: Charleston, SC
Kim: Carolinas College of Health Sciences (formally Carolinas Medical Center School of Radiologic Technology)
Adrienne: Vanderbilt University
Kim – Program Coordinator for Camp LUCK
Adrienne: full time mom and President of Camp LUCK (Lucky Unlimited Cardiac Kids)
Please share with us how & when you both became involved with Camp LUCK.
Kim: In 1993 my son, Jacob, was born with Shone’s Complex, which includes 3 congenital defects that affected his heart. Jacob underwent 4 heart surgeries and 4 complex heart procedures in his short 17 years. In 2004 we became aware of a heart specific camp in CA called Camp Taylor. Jacob and I attended Camp Taylor for 5 years until 2009 when the idea of a local residential camp for kids with heart disease was discussed with Jacob’s cardiologist, Dr. Rene’ Herlong and our current Camp Director, Jay “Bird” Thompson. We had our first Camp LUCK family camp in spring of 2010 and our first kids camp in the summer of 2012.
Adrienne: Ford was born with a complex heart condition called hypo-plastic right heart syndrome that required three open surgeries before he was 3 years olds. Shortly after his birth, we met many other families (including the Jackson’s) through a support group for kids with congenital heart defects (CHDs). When Kim, Jay and Rene decided to start Camp LUCK, we were excited to get involved!
What has this organization meant to you and your family?
Kim: Camp LUCK gives our family the opportunity to keep Jacob’s memory alive. Jacob loved his time at heart camp because it gave him a sense of belonging. He looked forward to his time with the other heart kids just like him. I love that so many heart kids and their siblings feel the same way now after attending Camp LUCK.
Adrienne: It’s really hard to put in words what Camp LUCK has meant to our family. For Ford (& Emma), Camp LUCK is fun, friends and the best week of the summer! But, for Eric & I, it is family. The first three years of Ford’s life were incredibly hard on us. We spent each waking moment worrying about Ford and wondering when his next surgery would be. We have an amazing support system in our friends and family but there is something special about having a group of families who “get it” in a way that no one else does. Now, Camp LUCK is an outlet for us to give back to other families traveling a similar journey.
How has it impacted & changed your family and your life?
Kim: Camp LUCK has become part of our extended family and a very big part of our life. My family has made Camp LUCK a lifelong commitment, one that will carry on Jacob’s legacy.
Adrienne: Like Kim said, Camp LUCK is an extension of our family. It’s not a “job”, it’s a way of life. And, the best part is to see our kids look for ways to give back to Camp. They are constantly asking what can they do to help, can they be in charge of this, when is the next meeting? They have made some amazing friendships (of all ages) through Camp LUCK and it warms my heart to know they love it as much as we do!
You both have been extremely involved for a long time. What changes over the years have you seen in the lives of the children you have grown to know?
Kim: I love watching the older heart kids who were once babies and toddlers when we began grow up to become mentors and role models for our younger heart kids and siblings.
Adrienne: Again, like Kim said, it has been awesome to see the kids who were pre-schoolers when we started grow up and get involved with Camp. They are becoming Camp LUCK’s leaders. They are mentors to our younger kids and icons to the parents (as there is much comfort is seeing a healthy heart kid in his teenage years).
Kim, how has Camp LUCK helped you and your family heal with losing your son, Jacob?
There will always be a huge hole in my heart since Jacob passed. There is no greater therapy for a broken, empty heart than to share that heart and spread love to others. I feel my continued work with heart kids and their families has helped me move forward and heal while keeping Jacob’s memory alive. I will never “get over” Jacob’s death but I can keep his memory alive through Camp LUCK.
What can you both share with other moms about slowing down and enjoying every moment.
Kim: It’s not always about all the extracurricular activities and constantly having something to do. It’s about the quality times spent at home with your family that makes the biggest difference in a child’s life.
Adrienne: People say it all the time but until you experience a hardship in your life, you don’t recognize how short life really is. Things can change in a moment and aren’t always perfect. So, take some time to find something that brings you happiness and devote some time to it. Do it for you!
How can others get involved in Camp LUCK?
Camp LUCK exists because of the continued support from our heart families, donors and volunteers. You are welcome to join the Camp LUCK family by contacting www.CampLUCK.com.
Just for fun:
Favorite activity to do with your family at home and out & about?
K– My family enjoys the beach, hiking, camping and visiting historical sites.
Go-to for lunch:
K: Brixx Pizza
A: Sadly, Chik fil a
Coffee or Tea or Soda Girl?
A: I know this sounds ridiculous but I love nothing more than to organize something. A drawer, closet, basket, whatever! It brings so much satisfaction to clean out and neatly put things away. LOL
Favorite TV Show:
K: anything on HGTV
Best Advice another mom ever gave you:
K: Jacob’s 4th grade teacher said he should be packing his own lunch for school to teach him responsibility.
A: Your kids are watching everything you do. Lead by example.
App you couldn’t live without.
K: Without a doubt…Waze!
A: Weather Channel
What you’re most look forward to doing this summer.
K: I look forward to traveling to the west coast to attend the fairy tale wedding of Rachael, a “heart kid” that Jacob and I met in 2005 at our first heart camp in California. I’m also looking forward to the 6th annual Camp LUCK kid’s camp in August.
A: Not having a schedule!!!!