Each year on Oct. 5, CHOC celebrates the anniversary of its opening – and with that, the birthday of its beloved mascot, Choco.
With his soft fur and wide eyes, a bright red heart on his chest, and a perpetual bandage on his arm, Choco has been comforting patients since the hospital opened its Orange, CA doors in 1964.
But even grownups aren’t immune to Choco’s pacifying powers: Many a CHOC doctor, nurse and staff member who spot Choco will stop to sheepishly wave or come in for a hug, each time lifting their voices a few octaves to say, “Hi Choco!”
Indeed, there’s something special about Choco.
Choco’s origin story – memorialized in song and word through the years – holds that the bear once tumbled from a tree after a branch snapped. His pride bruised and arm hurt, Choco headed to what was at the time a brand-new nearby children’s hospital, CHOC. There, compassionate and expert doctors and nurses fixed him right up.
Choco was so enamored of the hospital’s soothing environment, kind staff and providers, and wonderful patients and families, that he stuck around to help give back to the place that helped him so much.
CHOC’s history began with visionaries Walt Disney and Walter Knott joining a small group of Orange County pediatricians and leaders – all determined to bring a children’s hospital to their growing community.
Given that lineage, it should be no surprise that Choco’s first likeness was crafted by Disney artist, Bob Moore.
“I didn’t want to make him a scary bear for the kids, and I thought the bandage would be cute, something the children would remember,” Bob said at the time. “The bandage was placed on the left arm, to be closest to the heart.”
Through the years, Choco’s look has evolved several times. Those changes have been evident on paper, on pillows and in reality, when Choco makes his regular visits throughout the health system and at community events.
Summer 2020 brought Choco’s most recent makeover – and wow, was it an adorable glow up.
Now at 58, Choco’s commitment to CHOC’s mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children has never been deeper.
Given that, his abundance of love for CHOC patients, and his unceasing smile, Choco most certainly deserves hearty birthday wishes.