CHOC Walk in the Park 2017: Why I Walk – Team Miranda

Seven years ago, Miranda woke up screaming in the middle of the night from unbearable head pain. She couldn’t move or recognize her parents, and then she collapsed.

Miranda’s parents rushed her, a 10-year-old at the time, to a local hospital. Physicians there initially told them to wait three days for observation.

Dr. Jason Knight, a CHOC Children’s pediatric critical care specialist and medical director of CHOC’s emergency transport services, was on call at that hospital that day, and met with Miranda’s parents, Regina and John.

An Emergency Transport to CHOC

“Dr. Knight explained what was happening better than anyone else at the hospital,” Regina remembers. “He suggested we transport her to CHOC so she could be seen by pediatric specialists. We were scared to move her, so we asked Dr. Knight if he would transport Miranda if she were his own daughter. He said yes, and we trusted him.”

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Dr. Jason Knight, critical care specialist, chair of the department of medicine, and medical director of emergency transport services at CHOC Children’s

Dr. Knight recalls, “As the physician covering the local hospital that day, it was my responsibility to assure that Miranda received the appropriate care in a timely manner. As soon as I assessed her condition and reviewed the CT scan of her brain, it was clear to me that Miranda needed to be transferred to CHOC immediately. I contacted Dr. Michael Muhonen, a pediatric neurosurgeon at CHOC, and coordinated Miranda’s transfer to CHOC.”

Scans revealed she had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a tangle of weakened blood vessels that had ruptured and started to bleed in her brain. Upon arrival at CHOC, Miranda immediately underwent neurosurgery with Dr. Muhonen, medical director of the neuroscience institute at CHOC.

“Miranda was critically ill upon arrival to CHOC. She reminded me of my own three daughters― innocent, beautiful and vulnerable. It was with this in mind that I approached her operation― do what it takes to keep her brain alive and functional,” recalled Dr. Muhonen.

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Dr. Michael Muhonen, medical director of the neuroscience institute and director of neurosurgery at CHOC Children’s

After a successful four-hour surgery, Miranda was placed in a medically-induced coma for several days. Her parents didn’t know if she would survive.

“When Miranda was in a coma, I told Dr. Knight that I wanted to take a photo of her so that I could show her when she woke up, but that I didn’t want to take it if she wasn’t going to make it,” recalls Regina. “For a few days, he wouldn’t let me take the photo because he wasn’t sure if Miranda was going to survive. Then one day, Dr. Knight told me it was ok to take a photo of her, and I knew that meant she was going to make it.”

John adds, “My family is intact today because of wonderful doctors like Dr. Knight, Dr. Muhonen and their teams. It’s just amazing what CHOC does. We are so blessed.”

The Long Road to Recovery

Miranda’s recovery process included child life specialists, physical therapy and rehabilitation. She spent one month at an inpatient rehabilitation facility followed by an additional three months of outpatient care learning how to walk and talk again.

The first year after surgery was critical. Miranda saw Dr. Muhonen every few months for checkups to monitor her brain, as well as a CHOC ophthalmologist to make sure her sight was progressing.

“The AVM and the clot were removed successfully, and Miranda has recovered with minimal long-term deficit,” says Dr. Muhonen. “My reward is not only seeing a disease-free brain on the post-operative MRI, it is the omnipresent smile and effervescent personality that Miranda still has, despite her near-death experience.”

Everything came back except her sight. She lost 25 percent of her vision in both eyes, but that hasn’t stopped her from dancing, her favorite activity since age 8. Miranda’s parents had to supervise her at all times for the first year after surgery to make sure she didn’t have a seizure (a possible side effect of brain surgery), which meant that her mom went to every dance practice and every pool party to ensure her daughter’s continued safe healing.

Giving Back to CHOC

A few months after Miranda’s surgery, her family was invited to participate in CHOC Walk in the Park by friends.

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Miranda and her family at their first CHOC Walk in the Park, just a few months after her emergency neurosurgery

“After what we went through, we felt closely tied to CHOC. We walked that year and fell in love with the event. We realized this was an affordable way to give back to CHOC,” recalls John. “My favorite memory was our very first CHOC Walk. Miranda walked alongside us, which was a huge accomplishment. A couple months before that, we weren’t sure if she was ever going to walk again. To see her walk on her own was the most memorable moment for me.”

The family’s first CHOC Walk was especially impactful for Miranda herself.

“I will never forget attending my first CHOC Walk one year after my surgery. I remember seeing other patients participating in the walk with their own team just like me, only they needed walkers or wheelchairs to have the capability of walking the entire distance. Seeing other patients that were struggling to do the simple task of walking, something that people take for granted, made me reflect back to being a patient at CHOC, where I once struggled with relearning how to walk during physical therapy,” recalls Miranda. “From that moment on, I promised myself I would always participate in the CHOC Walk and give back as much as I could, not only to represent the patients who couldn’t recover as fast as I did, but also for the patients that don’t make it. I am reminded every day by the scar on the back of my head of how blessed I am to have been a patient at CHOC.”

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Every year since her emergency surgery, Miranda’s family rallies dozens of friends to participate in CHOC Walk in the Park.

Every year since then, Miranda’s parents gather dozens of friends, family and co-workers to join Team Miranda, the CHOC Walk team they formed in honor of their daughter. They formed their team with the help of the Littlest Angel Guild, a philanthropic group that raises funds to support the mission of CHOC.

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Miranda and her family at the 2012 CHOC Walk in the Park

“We encourage people we meet to participate in CHOC Walk to help provide the best medical care for the children in our community. You never know if or when CHOC’s services will be needed for your children, for your friend’s children, for your neighbor’s children, or even a stranger,” says John, whose employer, Hill Brothers Chemical Company also sponsors CHOC Walk, in addition to the other philanthropic events benefiting CHOC. “We learned firsthand how much everyone at CHOC cares – the doctors, the nurses, the administrators, and staff throughout CHOC all genuinely care about the children and their families.”

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Team Miranda at the 2013 CHOC Walk in the Park

Experience at CHOC Inspires Future Career

Now a senior in high school, Miranda is preparing for graduation and heading off to college. Inspired by her experiences at CHOC, she is planning to major in psychiatry and dreams of becoming a pediatric optometrist.

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CHOC Walk in the Park 2017: Why I Walk – Team Brave Boyle

Lizzie Boyle is mom to CHOC Children’s patient and cancer warrior Ella, age 6 and serves as team caption for CHOC Walk’s Team Brave Boyle

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There are many ways that grateful families can support CHOC. Why do you participate in CHOC Walk every year?

Walking was the most crucial part in Ella’s recovery. As she braved her 14 rounds of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, and many scans and procedures under anesthesia, I knew as a mom that it was important to get her moving. CHOC encouraged us as parents to be active participants in Ella’s recovery, and how crucial it was that she must get out of bed and walk the halls of the hematology/oncology unit to survive. The CHOC Walk is a direct reflection of what happens inside that unit at CHOC. Get up, survive, and walk alongside people who you may never know by name. We learned that the power of being together, all for the purpose of knowing someone in their lives was affected by this hospital, is a tremendous feeling.

What inspired you to become part of CHOC Walk? How long have you been participating?

The CHOC Walk was always been something we knew about within our community, however not until my daughter was a patient herself did we walk. Last year, my sister Caitlin and brother-in-law Rhett took it upon themselves to create Team Brave Boyle, and by the grace of God and many other hands we were able to walk that day. Some members of our team have participated for years in support of the care their own children received years ago, but much of our team was experiencing it for the first time. The phrase I heard the most from our team that day was, “We will do this every year. This is amazing.”

What is your favorite memory from a previous CHOC Walk?

Well that is a tough one to answer! I will say it was when we were in a holding pattern waiting to walk down Main Street. The Brave Boyle team was stretched out five people wide and at least 40 feet back. I looked ahead of us and saw a group of our oncology nurses; I looked behind me and saw my sisters; I looked around me and saw Ella’s classmates sprinkled around with their parents. To see the sacrifices that so many of our supporters made to be there that day was humbling,  and I felt so sad that Ella wasn’t able to walk with us that day. Then I looked to my right and there was a large group holding a sign for their daughter who is now an angel. I quickly became overwhelmed with emotion. Just then, over the Disneyland speaker, “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift started playing. The entire group began to sing, and it brought me back to day one of Ella’s treatment when we started the tradition of singing that song for her. It was exactly what we needed at that very moment.

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What would you say to a community member to encourage them to participate in their first CHOC Walk?

It is an experience that allows you to celebrate all life, and your support system—the child, the sibling, the grandma…the people who hold us up. The day is beyond a fundraiser, it changes your entire outlook on what a hospital represents.

What inspires you most about the care being delivered at CHOC?

In our 12 months living off and on at CHOC, my daughter walked onto that 5th floor each time to be greeted as if, ‘Welcome Home.’ In the same respect, days later as we were discharged, they celebrated, praised her, and said, ‘Say hi to your sister!’ They knew Ella Grace Boyle, and every 5-year-old should feel that love no matter what they are facing.

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CHOC Walk in the Park 2017: Meet Team Hope

By Ashlie Wenrick, mom of CHOC patient Noah

I was inspired to become part of the CHOC Walk in the Park when I was in junior high, as a way I could help children in my own community who were  at CHOC Children’s. I did all I could to raise money, made calls to family and friends, wrote letters and went door-to-door asking for donations. That’s where my passion for raising money for CHOC all started and every year my parents and I would participate in the CHOC Walk.

My son Noah was born in 2014 at St. Joseph’s, right next to CHOC. Nine hours after he was born, a nurse noticed something was off during a routine check-up, and soon we were being sent to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). It took a few days to determine exactly what was wrong. Noah was diagnosed with a lung infection and stayed in the NICU for almost two weeks.

Having participated in the CHOC Walk for so many years, I knew that CHOC was an amazing hospital, but I didn’t think I would ever be on the receiving end of their care. Being a walker for so many years and then having your own child be a patient at CHOC can be very emotional! CHOC did everything they could to make us feel comfortable when we were there and their staff was amazing!

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Meet Noah, the inspiration behind CHOC Walk in the Park’s Team Hope

In 2014 my husband and I created Team HOPE in honor of Noah. It started off as a small team, but last year Team Hope had around 90 walkers and raised more than $16,000 for CHOC. I never imagined Team HOPE would be such a big team! . Thanks to CHOC,  Noah is now a happy, healthy 3-year-old and for that we will continue walking for CHOC helping raising money.

My favorite memory from all CHOC walks is when you are standing on Main Street, waiting with thousands of walkers getting ready to start the CHOC Walk. I love looking around and seeing how excited everyone is and thinking all of us came together to help raise money for CHOC and knowing there are some amazing stories on why money is raised is an amazing feeling!

A few tips for first time CHOC Walkers: remember that in fundraising, every dollar counts in making a difference. On the day of the walk, allow extra time to park and find your way to the front of Disneyland as the trams are not running. Last but not least, have fun while raising money for the children.

Register Now!

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CHOC Walk in the Park: Meet Team Timmaree

By Debbie Hicks, CHOC Walk in the Park participant 

At 7 years of age, our daughter Timmaree was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called orbital rhabdomyosarcoma. In the process of enduring extensive chemotherapy treatments, she lost her hair, but never lost her faith, smile, resilience, and trust in us as parents to ensure she received the best possible care. We turned to the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s.

Timmaree bonded with pet therapy dogs during her time at CHOC.
Timmaree bonded with pet therapy dogs during her time at CHOC.

To help pass the time during her lengthy hospital stays, Timmaree enjoyed painting rocks. Her first piece of art was a butterfly. She drew a cancer ribbon and then began doodling around it. She excitedly shouted out, “This is a cancer ribbon butterfly!” Timmaree’s rock painting quickly caught the attention of CHOC doctors, nurses and volunteers, as well as other patients, who lined up outside her room to get a glimpse of her special creations. Timmaree never intended on selling them, but many people made generous donations in hopes she would buy something extra special for herself.

After fighting a tough and courageous battle for nearly two years, Timmaree passed away on Dec. 21, 2008, just eight days after turning 9. She was a hero to thousands of people who had the opportunity to meet her, helping change people’s perspectives about life. Many feel honored they have one of Timmaree’s limited edition painted rocks with her signature.

A selection of Timmaree’s limited edition painted rocks.
A selection of Timmaree’s limited edition painted rocks.

Timmaree is with us in spirit. To celebrate her legacy and to brighten the day for patients, we bring the Team Timmaree Rock Craft Day to CHOC the last Sunday of every month. By hosting garage sales and bake sales, we raise money to provide 250 rock painting kits each month — for a total of 18,000 kits since we started seven years ago. In addition, we have proudly participated in the CHOC Walk in the Park since 2007. Our team, donning t-shirts with Timmaree’s butterfly art, has raised more than $260,000.

The 2016 CHOC Walk marks our team’s 10th anniversary, and we can’t think of a better way to honor Timmaree and CHOC than serving as an ambassador family. CHOC was our “home away from home” for two years, during which time we witnessed inspiring miracles and courageous battles. For that reason and so many others, we look forward to joining thousands of walkers at the Disneyland Resort on Oct. 30, 2016. Together, we’ll take steps in support of CHOC and the children and families they serve.

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CHOC Walk in the Park: Justin’s Helpers

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.

CHOC Walk: Justin's Helpers

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.

CHOC Walk in the Park: Insider Tips for Event Day

The 25th annual CHOC “Walk in the Park” is around the corner. With 15,000 Walkers expected at this year’s Walk, here are some tips to help teams and individual walkers have a fun morning.

Parking & Meeting Up

  • The Mickey and Friends Parking Structure will open the morning of the Walk at 5 a.m. Parking is free for registered CHOC Walk participants, even if you will be staying at the Disneyland Resort for the entire day.
  • The tram does not run to and from the parking structure the morning of the Walk, so allow time to walk from the structure to Disneyland’s main entrance.
  • Talk to your team about a designated place where you will meet at the structure, in Downtown Disney or in the esplanade between Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park.

Entering Disneyland

  • Because all participants will be arriving for the Walk at the same time, it is important to allow for extra time to get through the turnstiles and onto Main Street U.S.A. for the Walk’s opening ceremony at 6:15 a.m. You will want to budget even more time if you will be stopping in Downtown Disney for coffee or a snack.
  • Animals (except service dogs), roller skates, bicycles, scooters and skateboards are not allowed.

What to Bring

  • Because breakfast is limited in Downtown Disney before the Walk and food is not sold in the parks during the Walk, walkers should bring light snacks and drinks, especially for young children. Keep in mind that glass bottles and containers are not allowed, except for baby food jars and baby bottles.
  • Don’t forget your camera because there will be Disney magic, characters and surprises throughout the Walk. Selfie sticks are not allowed in Disneyland or Disney California Adventure.
  • Disneyland stroller and wheelchair rentals are not available the morning of the CHOC Walk, so be sure to bring what you will need with you.
  • Wagons are not allowed inside Disneyland or Disney California Adventure during regular park hours, but are allowed in the parks during the CHOC Walk. If you will be heading into the parks after the Walk, be sure to switch out your wagon for a stroller back at your car afterward.

CHOC Walk in the Park

Team Spirit

  • An exciting addition to this year’s CHOC Walk weekend is the Ambassador’s Luau on Saturday, Oct. 10 in the Grand Ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel. The Luau is a festive and exotic Polynesian-themed event perfect for team building the afternoon before the Walk. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
  • Have fun with your team! Don’t forget, you can dress in school colors, wear matching t-shirts to support your loved one, or make signs to thank your supporters and help your team stand out in the crowd.
  • After the Walk, head over to the team photo area at the Downtown Disney Stage and get a team picture with Choco and the 2015 Honda Miracle Odyssey.

Downtown Disney CHOC Walk Festival

  • The fun doesn’t end when you cross the finish line. The CHOC Walk Festival will feature tons of great giveaways from CHOC sponsors, a DJ spinning great music, and the chance to purchase the 25th anniversary CHOC Walk in the Park hoodie, shopping bag, CHOC Kids Cards, CHOC Walk commemorative lapel pins and lanyards.
  • Don’t miss the CHOC Walk Selfie Squad who will be out throughout the festival and team photo area with CHOC Walk selfie signs and a helping hand for those big group pictures
  • Special discounts are available at many Downtown Disney stores and restaurants after the Walk. For a full list of businesses opening early for breakfast and discounts available the day of the Walk, click here.

More Fun In the Parks

  • Present your CHOC “Walk In the Park” wristband at a Disneyland Resort ticket booth to purchase special CHOCtober Disneyland Resort tickets. Purchase a 1-Day 1-Park ticket for $51 or a 1-Day Park Hopper ticket for $81 to use for admission back into the park on the day of the CHOC Walk or for your next trip to the Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure Park. Tickets are valid from Oct. 11, 2015 through Nov. 6, 2015 and do not have block out dates. A maximum of 5 tickets may be purchased per wristband.

You can learn more about CHOC “Walk in the Park or register to participate by clicking here. For real-time event information follow CHOC Walk on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also follow along with the fun by tagging your CHOC Walk photos online with #CHOCWalk.

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Thank you CHOC Walk Participants!

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An early CHOC Walk
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Me and a young CHOC Walk-er in 2010

One of the most fun CHOC Children’s events is the CHOC Walk in the Park – and I want to thank the thousands of folks who have participated in this annual event through the years.

It warms my heart to see about 15,000 people strolling through the Disneyland Resort while celebrating CHOC patients’ bravery; thank CHOC doctors, nurses and staff; and raise funds for the hospital.

I love seeing the walkers gather in the early morning, energized by a common mission to support CHOC. Walkers organize into teams and wear special shirts and carry signs. Babies ride in strollers, and people have a blast winding their way through Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

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Me with a CHOC Walk team in 2007

It’s truly a sight to behold, and I am grateful to all who have participated and will continue to do so.

Speaking of which, this year’s walk is Oct. 12. Have you formed a team yet? Learn more about the walk and how to sign up here.

And don’t forget to stretch!

Choco, A Treasured Part of CHOC’s History…and Disney’s?

It’s CHOC Walk time again! And as we anxiously wait for Sunday’s festivities, we can’t help but reflect upon the long-standing relationship between CHOC Children’s and our CHOC Walk host and presenting sponsor, the Disneyland Resort.

Did you know that Choco Bear, the beloved mascot for CHOC, was born on the drawing board of artist Bob Moore at Disneyland? Disneyland had volunteered to help create a logo long before CHOC ever opened. Choco was first designed as a two dimensional logo, and through the years evolved into a three dimensional character.

The history of these organizations, two Orange County staples, goes way back. Walt Disney first formed a bond with the hospital in 1960, when he was appointed as one of the founding members of CHOC’s executive council. Decades later, the support continues with Disneyland Resort President George A. Kalogridis serving on CHOC’s board of directors, and most recently, a $5 million donation from the Disneyland Resort to CHOC’s comprehensive fund-raising campaign.

Choco Bear and CHOC Children’s President and CEO, Kimberly Chavalas Cripe stand in the new main lobby of CHOC Children’s Hospital, after a key ceremony in Sept. commemorating substantial completion of the new tower, set to open in Spring 2013.

Choco, however, is perhaps one of the most nostalgic treasures in the history that the two organizations share.

Today, Choco is recognized wherever he goes and continues to be the comforting and lovable mascot to all of the patients and families CHOC is privileged to serve, and the entire community.

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    One of the most fun CHOC Children’s events is the CHOC Walk in the Park – and I want to thank the thousands of folks who have participated in this ...
  • Choco Bear’s First Portrait
    One of the coolest things to happen to me since I started hanging around CHOC Children’s is getting my portrait professionally drawn. Through the decades, a couple different versions of my likeness have ...
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Support CHOC, Form Your Own CHOC Walk Team!

Guest blogger, Lisa Robertson, author of the Babes in Disneyland blog and book, and mommy of three, shares her tried and true tips on how to start a CHOC Walk team.

Last year, I laced up my sneakers and walked in the twentieth annual CHOC Walk in the Park held at the Disneyland Resort. It was my first walk and I decided to go for it by not just participating in the walk but by forming and leading a team of walkers.

Whether you are a first-time walker or a long-time CHOC Children’s supporter, forming a team is a great way to become involved in the walk. In order to form my team and raise money for CHOC, I reached out to friends, family members and the readers of my blog and very quickly formed a team of almost 20 walkers who raised more than $2,200.

This year, my team currently has nine registered walkers and we are on track to raise $1,000 and maybe more. If you or someone you know are thinking about forming a team for the CHOC Walk in the Park, here are my top tips for managing your team:

1. Recruit and raise money using social media. I use Twitter and Facebook to reach out to those I know and those I don’t to let them know about my efforts.
2. Get creative! Last year, my youngest son and I created the video below to help raise money for our CHOC Walk efforts:

3. Keep your team members up to date with frequent emails or create a special Facebook event or group page with the latest on your group’s meet-up the morning of the walk, check-in information and lodging information for those who are not local. A page is also a great place for your team to discuss whether or not you want to create signs, shirts or hats for the walk or designate a place to meet up and have breakfast after the walk is over.
4. Encourage members who are local to the check-in for the event in person. If all of your members cannot check-in ahead of time, be sure to set a deadline for each of your team member’s $50 pledges so that they are all paid before you or a member of your team checks in for everyone.
5. Set a meeting spot for your team for the morning of the race and bring something to identify your group. Last year, I brought a huge bundle of red balloons. In theory, this was a great idea…except for the fact that a lot of other groups brought red balloons as well. This year, I’ll be bringing a sign and balloons.

Walking for CHOC is very important to me because I believe in the amazing work done at CHOC and take great comfort in knowing that should my children ever need the expertise of CHOC’s talented doctors, nurses, surgeons or other specialists, that they will be there at the ready. CHOC provides families hope and comfort and patients the opportunity to still feel like kids while dealing with the very adult issues of being sick.

If you are looking for a fun team to walk with at the CHOC Walk in the Park, I happily invite you to join my team, Babes In Disneyland. If you still aren’t sure if the CHOC Walk is right for you, check out my team’s video from last year!

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Thousands Walk for CHOC!

The Babes In Disneyland team – one of 795 teams – walked the 2010 CHOC Walk in the Park last Sunday and raised over $2000. Close to 14,000 walkers, including CHOC employees, community members, and patients and families, gathered to support CHOC and raised $2 million total!

Check out this video:

Thank you to all the CHOC supporters who made this event such a huge success – your contributions allow CHOC to continue protecting the health and well being of our community’s little ones!

If you weren’t able to attend this year’s CHOC Walk, you can still support CHOC by visiting www.chocwalk.org.