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.

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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.

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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 http://www.colorforthekids.org.

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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 services in Orange County. This week, CHOC celebrates National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we salute our dedicated and enthusiastic team of volunteers.

Volunteers come to CHOC for a variety of reasons: some wish to donate their time as a way to give back to a hospital that cared for their child, while others have an interest in medicine.

Jack Bruno is the latter. Having spent 39 years as a pediatrician and nearly 20 of those as vice president of medical affairs at an east coast hospital, Dr. Bruno has cared for thousands of children and their families. After retiring to sunny Southern California with his wife to be closer to his grown children, he decided to give back by volunteering his time at CHOC.

choc volunteer
Dr. Jack Bruno, a CHOC volunteer

“When I moved to California, aside from family, I didn’t know too many people, and I knew that I wanted to have some contact within a pediatric hospital system,” says Dr. Bruno. “So much of my adult life had been engaged in health care, and since I had the time, I decided to volunteer. From living in Orange County I knew about CHOC and I thought I would apply to volunteer.”

As a lead patient hospitality volunteer, Dr. Bruno assists families during the discharge process and ensures they get safely from their hospital room to their car, and that nothing gets left behind. He also makes rounds on various units in the hospital, checking in with parents to see if there’s anything they need, even just a cup of coffee or break to have an adult conversation that’s non-medical. Even when his volunteer services are needed as a patient buddy, keeping a little one company and playing games while their parent has to run an errand, it’s rare that a family finds out that he was a pediatrician for nearly four decades.

“I don’t generally volunteer my background as a pediatrician and hospital executive since I am not in the room to provide medical advice. I leave that up to the excellent medical staff at CHOC,” Dr. Bruno says. “A couple of times it has come up when talking to a family, but hospitality volunteers are mainly there to provide companionship and some assistance.”

Dr. Bruno says that many of qualities he admired about his own patients he also sees in children and families at CHOC.

“One of the things I learned from years of practicing medicine and what I see again is a sense of fulfillment. Families are so strong. They often have various serious illnesses to battle, they might be in and out of the hospital frequently, but I draw strength from how they handle their situation,” Dr. Bruno says. “When you have a sick child, even if they will likely make a full recovery, it’s still a stressful experience for the parents and siblings. Part of the reason I like to volunteer is to see if I can help relieve some of that stress.”

Current volunteer opportunities at CHOC

Volunteers are special group at CHOC that provides vital assistance in all hospital departments, as well as at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital.

Currently, our highest needs are weekday shifts from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Night and weekend opportunities are limited. Assignments ae based on a combination of the current needs of the patient population, as well as the interests and skill sets of the volunteer.

Some of our CHOC volunteers:

  • Greet visitors as they arrive
  • Escort families around the hospital
  • Help visitors and families in the Family Resource Center
  • Organize coloring and reading activities for patients in our waiting areas
  • Assist our child life specialists in playrooms

choc volunteer

Another aspect of our robust volunteer program is pet therapy, an opportunity for volunteers with dogs who are certified by Pet Partners, a non-profit that registers therapy animals. Pet therapy can play an important part of a patient’s treatment by minimizing stress associated with a hospitalization, offering normal-life experiences, offering a distraction from pain, and encouraging patients to complete treatment goals like walking. The pet therapy program at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital is currenty accepting volunteers. For more information, please email volunteers@choc.org.

Learn more about becoming a CHOC volunteer.
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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 the very best pediatric services in Orange County. Some are retired community members looking to give back, and others, like Brianna, come in as high school students seeking new experiences.

Brianna started volunteering at CHOC when she was just 16 years old. She needed to complete volunteer hours as part of a school project and having grown up in Orange, she thought CHOC would be a worthy place to donate her time. Back then, she didn’t know what her eventual career path would look like. Due to her customer service experience as well as her bubbly and warm personality, she was placed as a customer service ambassador. That placement would eventually inspire her to become a registered nurse at CHOC.

Members of CHOC's customer service team celebrating Brianna's graduation from nursing school.
Members of CHOC’s customer service team celebrating Brianna’s graduation from nursing school.

“We could tell she loved working with kids and families,” says Sandra Schultz, customer service manager at CHOC. “She was a comforting presence in what can be a scary and stressful time. Her good energy was contagious, and she loved our mission statement- to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children.”

She was tasked with enhancing the CHOC patient experience by visiting patients and families to welcome them upon admittance and ensure that their non-medical needs were being met. If a need were identified, she helped facilitate a solution by providing time-sensitive and compassionate communications with the appropriate CHOC department.

Sometimes the opportunity to help a family was as small as getting a parent a glass of water.

“As a nurse now, I know that it’s the little things that matter,” Brianna says.

Her ambassador role allowed to her see a variety of environments in the hospital, which sparked her interest in nursing, particularly the pediatric intensive care unit.

“It was the most complex I’d ever seen medicine before,” she says. “But I felt like those kids were the ones I was supposed to be with, the kids who were having some of the hardest days of their entire lives.”

As a volunteer, Brianna was an avid learner and wanted to learn about every department inside the hospital. That passion for learning helped propel her through challenging coursework in nursing school, and eased her transition from volunteer to nurse when she came back to CHOC.

During stressful moments in a crucial unit of the hospital, Brianna relies on lessons she learned during her customer service volunteer days at CHOC.

“It’s important to be able to take a step back mentally when things get stressful. I’ve learned to remember where we are, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” she says.

Even after she transitioned into a nursing role, Brianna remains a part of the customer service family at CHOC. Her former colleagues-turned lifelong friends surprised her in the PICU on her birthday with a card and gift, and they celebrated her nursing school graduation right alongside her family. Every year the group reunites to participate in CHOC Walk in the Park.

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