MARCH 2009

Camp del Corazon participants wait to film “ER” episode.

UCLA Staff Inspires “ER”

The stars of television’s acclaimed “ER” team up this month with Camp del Corazon staff and children to film an episode devoted to the story of children with heart disease. The show will air on Thursday, March 26, on NBC.

While training as a resident in emergency medicine at UCLA in 1988, “ER” writer/executive producer Joe Sachs, M.D., met pediatric cardiology nurse Lisa Knight and began a friendship and a mutual dream of helping children, especially those with cardiac conditions. As “ER” went into its final season this year, Dr. Sachs proposed a story about Camp del Corazon. Actor Tom Arnold, also a long-time fan of the camp, will play the camp director, a character modeled after Kevin Shannon, M.D., the UCLA pediatric cardiologist who co-founded the camp along with Lisa.

Lisa Knight, R.N., and
Kevin Shannon, M.D.

Camp del Corazon opened in 1995 with 49 campers, ages 7 to 17 years, who spent three fun-filled days on Catalina Island. “The camp was inspired by a young patient of mine who had undergone heart surgery but who felt very embarrassed by his scars,” Dr. Shannon says. “I felt that if he could spend time with other children who had heart surgery, he’d be less self-conscious. I found a camp in Louisiana for children with heart disease, but it was too far away. So instead, we came up with the idea of creating a camp locally that would cost nothing and where counselors, nurses and physicians would all volunteer their time to help these special kids.”

Fifteen years later, the camp has gained national recognition. More than 450 children from around the country will attend the camp’s three sessions this summer—all paid by corporate and individual sponsorships raised by the Camp del Corazon Foundation.

Camp del Corazon will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a fundraising gala on April 25. Dr. Joe Sachs will be honored “for his sensitive portrayal of families affected by congenital heart disease, and for his unwavering support of the camp,” Lisa says. Brian Reemtsen, M.D., chief of congenital and pediatric cardiac surgery at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, will also be honored, and Tom Arnold will emcee.