As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, CHOC “Walk in the Park” has raised more than $24 million to fund education, research and adoption and utilization of the latest technologies to advance the health and well-being of children. This year, 15,000 people will participate in the largest pediatric children’s walk in the country. Walkers participate to support a variety of causes and patients and many teams have a deeply personal reason for participating.
Tricia and Colby Helper’s son Justin was born with lissencephaly, a rare brain disorder that, for Justin, brings seizures, chronic lung disease, and gastrointestinal complications, and usually at least three stays per year at CHOC.
For the past eight years, Justin’s family has been by his side as he bravely fights this chronic illness. This will be the fourth year that their team, Justin’s Helpers, will participate in CHOC Walk to support Justin.
“We were just so thankful for the hard work CHOC has done to keep him stable and let him come home,” Tricia said about getting involved with CHOC Walk. “No one really wants to go to the hospital, but CHOC is a warm, positive and inviting environment. It’s our home away from home.”
Over the past three years, Justin’s Helpers, formerly Team Jussy Bear, has raised more than $16,000. The 2015 team is made up of more than 90 members. The team hosts a bunco game night fundraiser at Justin’s family’s home, in addition to partnering with local organizations that support Justin’s journey. Joining that support group this year are Justin’s sister’s Girl Scout Troop 11304, as well as St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora, Calif., where Tricia attended and later was a counselor for 10 years, before leaving to care for Justin full-time. Justin and Tricia recently paid a visit to St. Lucy’s, where they educated students and staff on Justin’s condition, and shared stories on their involvement with CHOC Walk.
The day of the Walk can be an emotional one for Justin’s family and friends, but they always aim to make it a fun and memorable day for their team as well.
“It takes you back and you really feel that community,” said Tricia. “It’s a community that feels the support and love from everyone around them. They’re there to support the child they’re walking for, and for the hospital as well. It’s a wonderful feeling”
For more information on CHOC “Walk in the Park,” click here.