Dan and Kelli Cooper’s daughter Katie was an avid reader. Growing up in Chino Hills, she always had a book in her hand. “She would tell me she couldn’t do her chores because she was busy reading,” said Kelli.
When Katie was tragically killed in the 2014 shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Coopers knew they needed to do something to honor Katie’s life and keep her memory alive.
Katie’s sorority was involved in several pediatric charities. Before she passed away, Katie had mailed an annual fundraising letter to family and friends asking for book and monetary donations that would benefit a children’s charity close to her school. The letter arrived in family and friends’ mailboxes just before her memorial service, and they saw that letter as a sign to continue Katie’s book drive, says Kelli. The Coopers learned about the Family Resource Center at CHOC Children’s, and chose it as a beneficiary in order to build its library for CHOC patients and their families. Katie had spent countless hours in the library on her school’s campus as a double major studying art history and classics with a minor in archaeology.
Hundreds of people brought book donations to Katie’s memorial service, and boxes of books came flooding in to Katie’s high school. An entire classroom at the high school where Kelli works was filled with books from people who wanted to help honor Katie’s life. Even more were dropped off at the family’s home, something that continues to happen more than one year after their daughter passed away.
“As a parent, you just want to know your kids are out there in the world doing good,” says Kelli. “Through these book donations, Katie is still giving.”
To learn more about the Family Resource Center or make a donation, call 714-509-9168.
Before Mackenzie James-Wong was born, prenatal ultrasounds and testing diagnosed her with TAR syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that meant she was missing a bone in each forearm and had a dramatically low platelet count. Doctors also detected a heart defect that would require surgery immediately after she was born. Her mom Lindsay changed her birth plan so she could deliver at St. Joseph Hospital, and Mackenzie could immediately be under the care of nearby CHOC Children’s.
Her family’s relationship with CHOC’s Blood & Donor Services Center started when Mackenzie was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). They quickly learned how many transfusions lay ahead of them.
A healthy baby’s platelet count at birth is 50,000. Mackenzie’s was just 13,000. She needed transfusions right away. Mackenzie spent the first six weeks of her life at CHOC, and received dozens of platelet transfusions during that time. Over the next three years, she received nearly 200 blood and platelet donations.
“Sometimes she needed two transfusions in the same day. Eventually it slowed to every other day, and then once every 10 days, but then we regressed back to every four or five days,” said Lindsay. “The team from Blood & Donor Services visited us in the NICU, and educated us about the importance of finding regular donors who were a match for Mackenzie and who could provide a reliable and steady stream of platelet donations to fulfill her needs.”
The Blood & Donor Services Center identified two donors who were each a perfect blood and platelet match for Mackenzie. With her family’s permission, the donors heard Mackenzie’s story and how they could help. They opted into the Designated Donor Program, which allows a donor’s blood and platelets to be directed to a specific CHOC patient in need. Mackenzie has since met her donors, who have become part of her family, Lindsay says. Every year in December, one donor dons a Santa Claus suit, grows out his beard, and brings Christmas gifts to his donation appointment for Mackenzie and her older sister. The pair of donors come to Mackenzie’s birthday party every year, and have been known to rush home from vacation to make special platelet donations if Mackenzie is in need.
Every time Mackenzie has an appointment at CHOC, she stops by the Blood & Donor Services Center with her mom to personally thank donors for helping kids just like her.
“I tell these donors every time I see them that they are literally saving my daughter’s life with every donation,” says Lindsay. “She would not be here without platelet donations. When they donate blood and platelets at CHOC, it stays at CHOC to help patients like my daughter.”
In 2015, CHOC donors supplied 45 percent of the blood and platelets needed by CHOC patients requiring a transfusion. CHOC had to purchase the remaining needed blood products from outside sources.
“Having blood and platelets come directly from our blood donor center allows us to have the freshest blood available to meet the critical needs of our patients, and support our recently opened Trauma Center,” said Colleen Casacchia, RN, manager, CHOC’s Blood & Donor Services Center. “CHOC relies on blood donors in our surrounding communities to help meet our patients’ transfusion needs. One blood donation can save two lives and only takes about one hour of time every two months.”
Donating blood and platelets at CHOC has become a family affair for Mackenzie’s relatives. Her dad, grandparents and aunts all donate blood and platelets at CHOC in honor of Mackenzie.
For Lindsay, donating blood began at a young age. She celebrated her 17th birthday by making her first blood donation. Although she isn’t a match for her daughter, she regularly donates blood at CHOC to help other patients in need.
“I can’t always give financially, but blood is something I have plenty of, and it really doesn’t take that much time out of my day,” she says. “It was always something I was passionate about, but once it hit my family, I realized how life-saving it truly was. I want other persons to realize how important it is to donate blood and platelets, before someone in their family has a need for it.”
Teens and pre-teens may not always have philanthropy on their active minds, but volunteering their time can have a healthy impact on their development and help establish a sense of community. Encouraging them to commit random acts of kindness is also a wonderful way for them to learn about empathy for others, says Dr. Mery Taylor, a CHOC Children’s psychologist.
“Volunteering helps to broaden teens’ understanding of the world so they can understand there are different types of people with different types of needs. Not everyone may have the same opportunities and abilities they may have,” says Dr. Taylor. “Anybody can use their talents to help others. Altruism can actually grow the areas of your brain involved in emotions, and make you feel good you’ll want to do it again.”
It can, however, be a challenge for young teens and pre-teens to find volunteer opportunities because of age restrictions. OneOC is an Orange County-based non-profit that helps community members of all ages find service opportunities that match their personal interests. The organization’s comprehensive volunteer calendar offers a list of opportunities throughout Orange County. OneOC also sponsors five annual days of service that bring individuals, families, businesses and schools together to volunteer throughout the year: MLK JR. Day of Service (January), Earth Day (April), 9/11 Day of Service & Remembrance (September), Family Volunteer Day (November), and Spirit of Giving (December and April).
Additional ways for children and teens to give back include:
Clean out bookcases, toy chests and closets, and donate items to organizations that can accept them. Keep in mind that some organizations can only accept new items. CHOC can accept gently used books for our Family Resource Center. Due to infection control guidelines, all other items must be newly purchased.
From selling lemonade to organizing a bake sale, kids can start their own fundraisers to benefit their favorite nonprofits. At CHOC, we’ve witnessed some incredible acts of kindness from children, including current and former patients and their siblings. For inspiration, read about Juneau and Jamie’s Girl Scout troop.
Find ways to earn, save and donate allowances. Children who wish to give back to CHOC can consider purchasing items for our patients from our wish list.
Volunteer opportunities at CHOC exist for teens ages 16 and older.
There are numerous ways to instill the giving spirit in children and teens, says Dr. Taylor. Commit to participating in community service as a family, and start a family conversation around why you are giving back. Remind them that there are many different reasons why someone could end up in a position of needing help. Parents are a model for their children, and even if your children are too young to actively volunteer, they will be able to see the impact of your regular volunteer work.
CHOC is grateful for the support of our community, especially during the holiday season as people wish to remember our patients and families. Our annual holiday toy drive will be held Saturday, Dec. 19 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. in our employee parking structure, located at 557 South Main Street, Orange, CA 92868. We are unable to accept donations in the main hospital lobby.
Due to limited storage space, the donation of gift cards is encouraged. This enables our trained child life specialists to purchase toys and craft supplies based on the developmental age and gender of our current patients. Gift cards to stores such as Target, Toys “R” Us, Babies “R” Us, Walmart, Michaels, Barnes & Noble, and Visa/MasterCard gift cards are greatly appreciated.
Those wishing to donate toys can refer to our Wish List to choose from the items we find the most appropriate and popular with CHOC’s diverse patient and family population. We are always in need of more activities for our teen population.
Community members unable to participate in the toy drive but interested in donating can log on to www.amazon.com and search for the “Children’s Hospital of Orange County” wish list. Donations will be shipped directly to CHOC.
Please note that we are unable to accept the following items:
Handmade blankets, hats, socks, etc.
Get well cards
Big items: bikes, skate boards, etc.
Promotional items with company logos
For more information, please call 714-509-4519.
Thank you for your continued support of CHOC Children’s!
At 8 years of age, Juneau Resnick experienced a life-changing event. A close family friend, Gina, passed away after a devastating battle with brain cancer. Gina had devoted her life to working with infants in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Juneau, who spent the first 40 days of her life in a NICU, developed a special bond with her. Owing to her prematurity, Juneau developed hydrocephalus necessitating numerous brain surgeries. After a series of difficult events, Juneau’s parents transferred her care to Dr. Michael Muhonen, medical director of The CHOC Children’s Neuroscience Institute.
To honor Gina and to thank Dr. Muhonen and the CHOC team who did so much to improve her health, Juneau and her teacher came up with the idea of a fundraiser to coincide with the 100th day of school. In addition to passing out flyers, Juneau spoke in front of 700 people at a school assembly. She shared her personal experience with CHOC, and made a plea for each student to bring in 100 coins. Combined with a baked goods and lemonade sale organized by Juneau, the students’ donations totaled almost $1,000.
“She is truly passionate about helping others. She has an unwavering passion that I’ve never seen before and I work with kids,” says Juneau’s mom Ai, a substitute teacher. “I’ve seen a lot, and she is a rare bird.”
Juneau remains dedicated to continuing to raise money for CHOC. Every month, she partners with her teacher to sell pencils, erasers and other supplies at school to support an initiative dubbed Kids and K9, benefitting a local animal shelter and CHOC.
“I’m doing it to make kids happy and put a smile on their faces,” said Juneau. “I want them to forget where they are and just have fun.”
The young philanthropist is grateful for her renewed health and so happy to be under the care of CHOC Children’s.