CHOC Sibling Gives Back Through Dance Marathon

Growing up, Jessica heard countless stories of the “miracle workers” at CHOC who saved her twin brothers’ lives after they were born. Today, she’s giving back to the hospital that helped keep her family whole.

Justin and Ryan were born ten weeks early due to twin to twin transfusion syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can occur when identical twins share a placenta, and blood and other fluids do not flow evenly between the two babies, resulting in poor fetal growth.

Among other complications at birth, neither of the boys had fully developed lungs. The boys were rushed from the delivery hospital to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at CHOC Children’s Hospital, and their parents were told the odds of survival were very low. Justin’s blood was too thick to pass through his body, and Ryan needed several blood transfusions.

After six weeks of testing and growing stronger in the NICU, the boys were strong enough to go home. That was 18 years ago, and today they’re both healthy, straight-A seniors in high school who are looking forward to attending college next year.

Jessica with her brothers, shortly after they graduated from the NICU at CHOC Children’s.

Ever since, CHOC has had a special place in the family’s hearts― including the time one of the boys fell and broke his arm at age five.

“We were about twenty miles away from CHOC when it happened, but I remember my mom saying, ‘We are not going anywhere besides CHOC,’” Jessica recalls. “It didn’t matter that we had to drive past other hospitals to get there. My parents have always trusted CHOC in everything they do.”

When Jessica, a lifelong dancer, entered her freshman year at California State University- Fullerton, she heard about Dance Marathon, and realized it was the perfect opportunity to combine her passion for dance and desire to give back to CHOC.

Miracle Network Dance Marathon is a movement uniting college, university and high school students across North America. Students involved in a campus’ Dance Marathon organization spend a year gaining leadership, teamwork, and nonprofit business experience while raising funds and awareness for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

The year culminates with an eight-40-hour event (the dance marathon) on each campus where students get to meet patient families treated at their local hospital, participate in games and dancing, enjoy entertainment, and reveal their annual fundraising total.

As an active member of the CSUF Dance Marathon organization, known as TitanTHON, community outreach team, Jessica is responsible for reaching out to on- and off-campus groups to spread awareness of the event and assist with fundraising efforts.

Since 2014, TitanTHON has raised over $113,000 for CHOC Children’s, CSUF’s local Children’s Miracle Network hospital.

“Dance Marathon is one of my favorite nights of the year. It always falls around mid-terms, so it’s nice to take a night off from studying and spend time dancing with friends and taking advantage of different crafts and activities,” Jessica says. “It’s an honor to meet some of the families who are benefitting from the funds we raise each year. Last year I got to dance with one CHOC patient, and everything came full-circle. I realized that my fundraising is actually doing good work in my community.”

Jessica, who is studying kinesiology and wants to pursue a career as an adaptive physical education teacher for children with special needs, feels a special connection to the siblings of patients she meets at TitanTHON every year.

“TitanTHON is special to me because there are families and older siblings who have younger siblings being treated at CHOC, just like I did,” she says. “I want them to be able to have the same resources and be as blessed as I was, to have my brothers end up safe and healthy. It’s nice to know I am helping give CHOC the resources it needs to care for other children in my community.”

Learn more about TitanTHON

Related posts:

CHOC’s VP of Human Resources Joins Cast of Footloose Follies

One of Orange County’s most popular fundraisers, CHOC Follies, is back March 29-31 with their newest musical production, “Footloose Follies,” benefiting CHOC Children’s. Set against an 80s backdrop, the humorous toe-tapping show, featuring a cast of local social and business leaders, is sure to be fun for the whole family.

We talked to Tom Capizzi, CHOC’s vice president of human resources, about his role in the upcoming show.

Tom Capizzi, CHOC’s vice president of human resources

Q: How long have you been at CHOC?

A: I have been with CHOC two and a half fantastic years.

Q: How did you get involved with the show? Why is this important to you?

A: I have been a fan of the Follies for many years. I always felt it would be great to be a part of the production and give back as a senior leader at CHOC. In my role, I am always in front of many associates and love the opportunity to speak to as many people as I can. This year I decided, “Why not; let’s do it!”

Q: Did you have any experience with theater prior to the CHOC Follies?

A: I did some theater while in college, and later when my daughter was in a children’s regional theater group I was asked to participate in several adult parts.

Q: What is your favorite part of the show?

A: The cast brings such energy and passion to the show, which in my opinion is very infectious and speaks to our mission and why we all are aligned – associates, physicians, donors and volunteers – with our mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well being of children.

Q: Why should the community support the show?

A: Join us, it’s a wonderful time, very entertaining. And the dedication, passion and time commitment that the cast makes every year, which is all voluntary, speaks volumes to how important CHOC is to them and how critical philanthropy is to the success of our mission to care for our community’s children and their families.

Celebrate decades of singing and dancing for OC's kids. Buy your tickets now.

Related posts:



A Pageant Winner’s Donation to CHOC

Emma Foss, a Miss America Organization pageant winner from Tustin, California, turned her on-stage talent into a fundraising campaign to inspire others to make a creative donation to CHOC Children’s.

Entering Chapman University as a freshman art major and psychology minor in 2014, Emma enrolled in scholarship pageants through the Miss America Organization, a partner of Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) hospitals, such as CHOC.

Her talent: speed painting.

“I couldn’t sing or dance to save my life, so I came up with speed painting after watching internet videos of some incredible speed painters,” she recalls.

Emma immediately got to work teaching herself her new-found talent. She uses a black canvas, black paint, and silver or gold glitter to create incredible portraits in under a minute and thirty seconds.

With a brush in her hand, and a goal in her heart, Emma went on to hold the titles of Miss Tustin 2014, Miss City of Los Angeles 2016, and Miss Tustin 2017.

Contestants within the Miss America Organization are active fundraisers for CMN hospitals such as CHOC. Emma already had a special place in her heart for CHOC, since her mom had been a social worker at the hospital before Emma was born. In addition to helping raise much-needed funds, Emma began volunteering in the CHOC playrooms.

Emma Foss, a volunteer in a playroom at CHOC Children’s, designed coloring books to boost donations to CHOC.

While spending time in a playroom one day, Emma observed a young girl coloring a page from a kids’ coloring book. The girl’s mother tore a page out from her daughter’s book and began coloring it herself to take her mind off being at the hospital. It was at this moment that Emma decided to use her artistic abilities to help parents and teens who are dealing with the stress that can come with a hospitalization.

She created a 40-page coloring book for teens and adults.

“I realized that there were a lot of child-based toys, but these weren’t toys for teenagers or adults in the hospital. I wanted to use my skills to do something for the older kids,” Emma says.

Inspiration for the floral designs in her coloring book came from an anonymous quote:

“Every child is a different flower, and all together they make this world a beautiful garden.”

Emma says of her inspiration, “I loved this quote because CHOC’s goal is to nurture children, like flowers, and help them grow.”

All net proceeds from her book, “Color for the Kids,” are being donated to CHOC through Children’s Miracle Network. Anyone who purchases a coloring book for themselves on her website also has the option of making a donation to CHOC in which a book will be sent directly to a playroom in the hospital.

Bree Johnston, the assistant director of cause marketing and CMN at CHOC, was beyond excited to help Emma put this heartfelt and unique fundraising campaign into place.

“There is something to be said about an individual who can find a way to perfectly align their passions and their purpose. What Emma has done is a testament to the core values of the Miss America Organization and demonstrates how her inner beauty radiates through her artwork. We are overjoyed by how well the books have been received as these donations will directly affect the lives of our patients and families in so many ways,” explains Bree.

Inspired by her time as a volunteer in a playroom at CHOC Children’s, Emma designed coloring books to boost donations to CHOC.

Emma advertises “Color for the Kids,” created through her non-profit of the same name, via social media and promotional booths at local events. In addition, she brings a handful of books to the hospital during every volunteer shift to market.

“The children at CHOC have brought light into my life. In turn, I want to walk these kids through art and inspire them, as they have inspired me,” Emma says.

For more information, visit

Related posts:

  • Lifelong Pediatrician Becomes CHOC Volunteer
    Each year, nearly 1,000 CHOC Children’s volunteers provide more than 100,000 hours of service. Every day, they graciously donate their time and talents to help CHOC provide the very best pediatric ...
  • Volunteer Role Awakens Professional Calling
    Every year, more than 800 CHOC Children’s volunteers provide nearly 100,000 hours of service. They pursue volunteerism for different reasons, but they all donate their time to help CHOC provide ...

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”

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.”

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

Discover other ways to support CHOC

Related posts:

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 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
Register Now!

Related posts: