How One CHOC Walk Corporate Team Generates More than Good Will

It started with a personal connection to CHOC Children’s; one that sparked a grateful family to give back through their business. Their intent was to raise funds and awareness for the hospital that did so much for them. Their efforts yielded more than they anticipated.

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Larry and Angela Worsham, operators of Chick-fil-A North Orange, brought their son Nathan to CHOC Children’s Hospital when he was 2 years old. He was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder that causes the body to produce too much protein in the kidneys and urine. It can lead to swelling, weight gain and increased risk of other health problems.

Because of his condition, Nathan was hospitalized once, when he was in kindergarten. The now 14-year-old sees a CHOC nephrologist about every four months.

“The care Nathan received from the physicians, nurses, child life specialists and other staff when he was admitted to CHOC, and the care he continues to receive, is first class,” says Angela. “We are grateful to CHOC and are honored to support such an amazing place.”

Angela and her husband reached out to the CHOC Children’s Foundation after learning operators of another Chick-fil-A were CHOC supporters. They wanted to see how they could get involved.

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“Ever since that initial call from Angela, she and Larry have remained steadfast in their dedication to supporting our greatest needs,” explains Zachariah Abrams, assistant vice president, community engagement and special events, CHOC Foundation. “They’ve been amazing partners who are always open to new ideas. We are grateful for everything they’ve done.”

The Worsham’s support began with donating prizes for the CHOC Walk in the Park, presented by the Disneyland® Resort. They were also quick to meet requests for donating food for patient and staff events, which they continue to do. One of their favorite things, admits Angela, is providing a monthly dinner in the family room, serving the pediatric and cardiovascular intensive care units.

“It’s such an honor and pleasure to provide a little dinner break for parents and family members who spend their days and nights at bedside. And when we are at CHOC, we are always inspired to do more,” shares Angela. “I believe anytime any of us have an opportunity to serve others and act on it, we make our community stronger.”

That desire to serve prompted the Worshams to form, 11 years ago, their own CHOC Walk team “Chick-Fil-A 4 CHOC.”   Angela and Larry encourage their employees’ involvement with incentives, helping grow the team to nearly 200 walkers. Their team has raised more than $100,000. A contributing factor is Cookie Day, on which participating Chick-fil-A locations in Orange County donate proceeds from the sale of their chocolate chuck cookies to CHOC.

They are proud of that successful promotion and for their Walk total, but even more grateful for the friends they have met through their participation in the Walk.

“For us, personally, the best thing that has come out of the CHOC Walk is the relationship with the Hicks family, who founded Team Timmaree Rocks. We’ve walked with them for the past nine years and have become close friends. We’ve taken trips together, making amazing memories,” says Angela.

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In addition to forming valuable friendships, the Worshams have also developed business relationships and have attracted event and catering opportunities because of their involvement with CHOC. Their brand awareness in the market has increased, according to Angela.

“No matter the size of your company or your budget, everyone has the ability to fundraise and support causes we believe in. I do believe when you care more about the cause than what you will get out of it, you will benefit more in the long run,” advises Angela.

If your company or business is interested in supporting CHOC, call 714-509-7676.

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How One Stranger’s Gesture Impacted the Lives of CHOC Families

They didn’t know each other. Their only connection was their teenaged children; one fighting a devastating cancer diagnosis.

Then came a letter. And food prepared with love. It was a kind, selfless gesture that inspired a special friendship and, in less than two years, more than 1,600 meals delivered to families at CHOC Children’s Hospital.

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Jody Masquefa became – in her own words – obsessed with thoughts of and concerns for 19-year-old Dillan Morris. A friend of her daughter, Dillan had been diagnosed with cancer. She had never met Dillan’s family, but found herself thinking of them often, especially his mom Pam. She wanted to help them in some way, but didn’t want to intrude.

Dillan on the beach before his cancer diagnosis.

Finally, she got the courage to send Pam a letter. “You don’t know who I am, but my daughter is your son’s friend,” she wrote. Jody included her phone number and encouraged Pam to call if the family needed anything. A week later, she received a text message. Brief text exchanges continued until the family accepted Jody’s offer to deliver a meal to them at CHOC.

“I still remember the moment I pulled into the hospital’s five-story parking structure. It hit me how full it was…how many other families had children who were ill or injured,” recalls Jody. That meal led to her first face-to-face encounter with Pam. Additional food deliveries followed. Even though she become more acquainted with the Morris family, Jody knew she was still very much a stranger in their personal journey.

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Sept. 21, 2015. The day the Morris family was forever changed. Their beloved son and brother Dillan, who they thought was suffering from a bad cold, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphocytic leukemia. Just five percent of the population get both forms of the cancer. He was immediately admitted to the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC for aggressive treatment.

Dillan’s mom Pam took a leave from work to stay by his side…each of the 105 days he remained in the hospital. She was there for the chemotherapy, the physical therapy sessions and procedures. There when they received news that his cancer wasn’t responding well to treatment. And there to watch her handsome and athletic son endure everything with strength and courage.

“He never complained. Never asked ‘why me.’ He had a great attitude through it all,” remembers Pam.

Naturally, her focus remained on Dillan. She couldn’t even turn her attention away to respond to a message from the mother of one of his friends. Her sister replied to the stranger on her behalf, sent updates and finally accepted an offer of dinner.

Pam met Jody for the first time in CHOC’s fifth floor family room, where Jody had dinner set up for the family. They talked for a long time. Texts and notes of encouragement followed, as did more meals.

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Dillan came home from the hospital on Jan. 5, 2016. Ten days later he died. Jody attended his memorial service and was touched to see a full church, including staff from CHOC. Clearly the young man left a lasting impact on so many.

Once again, Jody summoned her courage; this time to approach Kara Noskoff, one of the hospital’s child life specialists who spoke at the service. She had an idea, a way to pay tribute to Dillan and help other families. “Could I bring meals to families at CHOC?” she asked. Kara agreed to help coordinate the effort, knowing how many families could benefit from such a kind gesture. Jody had one more person to ask: Pam. She wanted to know just how involved Dillan’s mom would like to be.

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The first “Love Letters Food Box” was delivered to a family at CHOC on Feb. 2, 2016. The box, nondescript with exception of a small logo designed by Dillan’s friend, held a three-course meal, including beverages. It also contained a letter, unsigned. “This meal is a gift to you to let you know that some stranger out there knows you are here,” it starts. The letter continued with the story of the Morris’ encounter with a stranger, who was deeply impacted by their journey and by the realization that so many families at CHOC were on similar journeys. And that “a meal is often a way to show others that we care.”

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Each Love Letters food box, nondescript with exception of this small logo designed by Dillan’s friend, holds a three-course meal, including beverages.

Since then, Jody and her volunteers, including Pam, have delivered more than 1,600 meals to CHOC. What began as a commitment to deliver one meal a week has grown to deliveries six days of the week. Pam’s delivery includes blankets, something her son treasured receiving from his friends.

“Jody and Pam are two amazing, caring and selfless women,” says Kara. “They are respectful of our families’ privacy, and wish to know only how many people to feed and any dietary restrictions. They are quiet heroes.”

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Jody, Bob, Pam and Yves at CHOC Walk in the Park.

Jody and Pam’s support of CHOC includes participation in the 2016 and 2017 CHOC Walk in the Park. Their team, including their husbands Yves and Bob, most recently raised $14,000. During the walk, a mom recognized the Love Letters Food Box logo and raced to the group to express her appreciation for being a recipient of one of their deliveries. More families have approached Love Letters Food Box volunteers at the hospital, tearfully giving thanks for the generous and selfless gesture. One family was inspired to start delivering meals to a local hospital in their community.

Jody and Pam are humbled by the gratitude and by the opportunity to be there for others. Once strangers, the two are now close friends, making a big difference in the lives of families one letter and one meal at a time.

Jody and her husband own Yves’ Restaurant and Wine Bar in Anaheim Hills. Jody would like to grow the Love Letters Food Box program. Anyone interested in getting involved can email lovelettersfoodbox@gmail.com.

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Surgical Team Gives Back Through CHOC Walk

Known as CHOC’s most anticipated event, the CHOC Walk in the Park presented by Disneyland Resort is set for August 27 this year. Many of our employees — among the more than 15,000 people expected to attend — will be proudly walking for CHOC in support of our patients and their families.

We spoke to Christina Portugal, unit assistant, surgical unit, and team captain of CHOC Walk’s team 3E Suture Heroes, who shared what inspires her to participate in this beloved tradition.

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Team Suture Heroes at last year’s CHOC Walk in the Park

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

A: I was inspired to participate in the CHOC Walk in the Park when I was a volunteer, before I joined the staff. I was inspired to be a volunteer after losing my dad to cancer eight years ago. I was moved by all the health care professionals who treated my dad with such kindness and compassion. Through my dad’s illness I gained a profound passion for the healthcare industry and wanted to find a way to give back so I chose to volunteer at CHOC. As my volunteer journey began, little did I know this would be the place where I would give to others and in turn heal from my loss. Volunteering I meet so many brave children fighting through the most difficult times and still standing strong heroically, our true super heroes of this world, teaching me that I could also be strong. I decided after a few years of volunteering that I would make a career move into the healthcare industry and joined the 3E surgical unit. I am grateful to be amongst a team of hardworking, warm kindhearted people who care about helping others. When I started walking in the CHOC Walk in the Park as a volunteer it was another way to say thank you and now I continue to say thank you to CHOC for giving me more than I can possibly put into words. Team Suture Heroes of 3E has grown and last year we were 38 members strong and raised over $4,000!

Q: There are many ways that associates can support CHOC. Why do you participate in CHOC Walk every year?

A: I participate every year because it affords me an opportunity to raise funds that make an immediate impact on families at CHOC Children’s. I walk for HOPE and get to do so alongside my coworkers and community. It is a privilege.

Q: What is your favorite memory from a previous CHOC Walk?

A: Being amongst the thousands of people in our community all affected by and or supporting our families of CHOC is surreal. Walking alongside patients, families and teams supporting one another is what makes this event so memorable. Seeing the hundreds of banners, cheering crowds and smiling faces all walking with grateful happy hearts is an experience like no other.

Q: As a veteran of past CHOC Walks and leader of an experienced CHOC Walk team, what “insider tips” would you offer to someone participating in their first CHOC Walk this year?

A: When you register, you will be given your own CHOC Walk personal page. I would encourage everyone to post this right away on all their social media sites. With a click of a button your friends and family can donate toward your fundraising efforts. Another helpful tool is the CHOC Walk FUNdraiser app which makes it easy and fun to track your progress in real time. For the morning of the CHOC Walk in the Park I would suggest you come extra early and give yourself enough time to walk to the entrance of the park since there are no trams running that morning. The parking can get quite congested and crowded and can delay your arrival to the CHOC Walk and you don’t want to miss out on the opening festivities.

Q: What would you say to a community member or fellow CHOC associate to encourage them to participate in their first CHOC Walk?

A: There is something very special about coming together to benefit others.  You gain a sense of hope in humanity. The quote that inspired me to not only participate in the CHOC Walk but to also begin my journey as an employee at CHOC was, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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

A: I am continually amazed by the medical teams at CHOC and the outstanding care they provide our families. When I walk across the bridge from the parking structure into the hospital, I have a grateful heart that I can be a part of a loving, giving and supportive community. I am thankful for what CHOC has taught me― how to be a better human and to appreciate what you have in this world.

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Insider Tips from CHOC Walk Team Captains

You’ve gathered your family and friends, fundraised for the betterment of CHOC Children’s patients, shared your personal reasons for wanting to give back to CHOC, and now the morning of CHOC Walk in the Park is approaching. Keep in mind these tried and true tips from some of our longstanding CHOC Walk teams:

Fundraising tips

  • Remember that in fundraising, every dollar counts in making a difference. Have fun while raising money for the children. – Team Hope
  • We recommend teaming up with a CHOC Guild. The Littlest Angel Guild in Yorba Linda/Anaheim Hills gave us a lot of help and guidance. It will also give you a chance to meet more people with a common goal to give back to CHOC. It’s also great to have a corporate sponsor. We are so lucky and grateful for Hill Brothers Chemical Company and their generosity. Hill Brothers Chemical Company has supported Miranda, our family, The Littlest Angel Guild, and CHOC since 2009. – Team Miranda
  • We’ve had success with bake sales and Dining for Dollars, where we partner with local restaurants who will donate a portion of proceeds on a certain night toward our CHOC Walk team’s fundraising goal. –Team IronJax
  • Get the word out and be creative! Make a list of everyone you know and send a personalized email inviting them to support your team. Hold garage sales, lemonade stands and bake sales. Save up money by recycling bottles and cans throughout the year. Hold an open house boutique where vendors come together to sell their items and donate a portion of their proceeds to your team. Most importantly, keep at it and don’t get discouraged! Every dollar raised is one dollar closer to your goal. It all adds up! –Team Robby Batman Gomez
  • Sending creative emails that include personal photos to your network go a long way. I send a save the date out about two months ahead of the walk, and remind people the reasons why we walk, thank all the past walkers from our team, and give an update on funds we’ve raised in the past. During the fundraising process, I send an email to my team with a video slideshow showing Mac’s year. I do this to share what a wonderful, fulfilled life he has because of CHOC. –Team MAC

Participant check-in/Packet pickup

  • One thing that helped tremendously when picking up other team members’ wristbands and shirts, was having their email, phone number and shirt size on hand. I picked up 14 walker packets and having the emails ready to go was a huge help. – Team Brave Boyle
  • If you’re picking up for other people, just make sure they have the $85 or more in their account in order to get their wristband for them. It’s also best to distribute wristbands to your friends or teammates BEFORE the walk day as it will be chaotic and people may be late. – Team Brave Boyle
  • Don’t forget if you signed up to have your shirt shipped you don’t need to go to check in. Your shirt and wristband will arrive the week before the Walk. If you don’t receive anything, call our office at 714-509-4000. –Team Kailualani
  • If you have cash or check donations, it helps to enter them online in your fundraising headquarters on chocwalk.org to speed up the check-in process! –Team Kailualani

Team spirit

  • Have fun with your team! Our team makes signs to show our team pride and support for CHOC, and we all dress in a theme. –Team CHOC Children’s HR Walking for Noah
  • Many teams make banners and signs for their CHOC patients to show their support and why they walk – no idea is too small! -Team Torres
  • It’s a great idea to get your kids involved in the Walk to teach them about philanthropy and volunteering at an early age. -Team Torres

Event day tips

  • Before our first CHOC Walk, we got good advice about meeting as a group somewhere outside the park, in Downtown Disney. As a newbie that was a GREAT help. – Team Brave Boyle
  • 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. – Team Hope
  • If you arrive late, you won’t be able to walk the full CHOC Walk route and will be redirected to a certain entrance based on your timing, so don’t be late! The opening ceremony is at 6:15 a.m., the Walk begins at 6:30 a.m., and the entrance cutoff time is 7:30 a.m. – Team Kailualani
  • Consider getting a hotel within walking distance to skip out on the traffic and enjoy a fun night around town before the CHOC Walk. Some nearby hotels offer special rates for CHOC Walk participants. Afterward, don’t try and exit toward Harbor, you’ll feel like a salmon trying to swim upstream. –Team IronJax
  • Give your team a timeline for CHOC Walk, consisting of:
    • Recommended time to leave the house the morning of CHOC Walk, and explain why you’ll need extra time due to the size of the crowd.
    • What time to meet at your team’s chosen meeting area.
    • What time you plan on entering the park.
    • Contact information for other team members in case someone has a hard time locating your team the morning of CHOC Walk.
    • Places where you plan on taking a group picture during the route.
    • Location to meet and regroup at the end of the route. We usually do a giant group thank you, and I designate an area because we can get split up during the route. –Team Justin’s Helpers
  • Don’t forget you can purchase discounted Disney tickets AFTER the walk with your CHOC Walk wristband. There will be ticket carts available in Downtown Disney near ESPN Zone, as well as the ticket booths in the esplanade, and you will need to have your wristband on in order to purchase. -Team Torres
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CHOC Walk in the Park 2017: Why I Walk – Team IronJax

By Seth Keichline, Team IronJax

We participate in CHOC Walk in the Park in honor of our son, Jaxson, who died in 2012 at 4-years-old following a drowning accident at a neighbor’s pool party. Jax was transferred to CHOC Children’s Hospital from another hospital, and the CHOC staff spent the next three hours doing everything they could to save our boy. The grace, compassion and solace that the CHOC staff showed us left an overwhelming mark on my wife and I. We lost our boy, but it was if they lost him with us.

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Jaxson passed away at age 4 after a drowning accident at a neighbor’s pool party. His family participates in CHOC Walk to honor his life and thank the pediatric intensive care unit staff members who showed compassion and grace to their family.

We walk in Jax’s memory. It’s a way to honor his life and the way he touched so many people in his short time with us, all the while helping to raise money for the hospital. We first started walking in 2012, just a few months after Jax passed away. A friend of mine worked at Disneyland and had worked on the event before, and mentioned it to me. I don’t think we signed up until about six weeks before the event, and we just figured our family and maybe a handful of friends would join us. We ended up with over 75 team members and raised more than $10,000.

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Jaxson’s family (father Seth, mother Kristina, older siblings Grayson and Ellie, and younger brother Phoenix) pictured at the 2016 CHOC Walk in the Park. The Keichline family participates in CHOC Walk in the Park to honor the memory of their son Jaxson who passed away in a drowning accident.

I’ll always remember that first year. There were so many emotions – we were in the thick of grieving, the rush of scrambling to get a team together in such a short time – but we felt a sense of pride on how we honored our sweet boy.

We are most inspired by the compassion and grace that the CHOC staff showed to our family. That is what we will always remember.

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Every year, Jaxson’s family and friends participate in CHOC Walk in the Park to raise much-needed funds for CHOC Children’s as a way to honor his memory.
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