CHOC Walk in the Park presented by the Disneyland® Resort has been a beloved community event for three decades, raising $37.5 million for CHOC. To build upon this legacy, while protecting the health and safety of our community, this year’s 30th Anniversary CHOC Walk has been reimagined to adapt to our new reality. It will be our first-ever virtual walk!
For Julie and Marty Gomez, the CHOC Walk is a particularly meaningful time when they honor their son Robby and show their heartfelt gratitude to CHOC.
Robby was born in 2001 at a local hospital with a rare condition that partially blocked the opening of his airway. The newborn was rushed to CHOC’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). At only two days old, he was given a tracheotomy—the first of many surgeries to fix his airway.
After a few weeks in the NICU, Robby was finally released to go home. He returned to CHOC for continuous appointments with various specialists.
When his mother Julie heard about the CHOC Walk, she knew she had to be involved. “In 2001, it was just me, my mom and a couple close girlfriends,” she recalls. “It just became an annual thing for us to show our support and give back to CHOC.”
For the next five years, Robby led a typical life with little to no restrictions. He grew into an energetic, kind and caring boy. He enjoyed everything that came with being a kid—from t-ball to playing with his friends and little sister. Above all, he loved Batman.
Tragically, Robby passed away unexpectedly in his sleep in 2006 from complications of his condition.
Team Robby Batman Gomez
To celebrate Robby, Team Robby Batman Gomez was launched. With up to 100 participants, they’ve been going strong every year since then to become one of the top CHOC Walk teams.
“The CHOC Walk,” explains Julie, “is such a special, unique opportunity that touches so many lives in our community. You can see the overwhelming compassion of everyone there, whether they are honoring a current patient or a child who has passed on. Every team has a name. Every name has a story. It’s just a sense of community and celebration and, for us, hope.”
Julie and her friends and family have also held numerous fundraisers to benefit CHOC. The Gomez family has even established a nonprofit organization to sponsor an annual golf tournament that supports the CHOC Walk. In its third year, the 2020 tournament, held last January, raised $30,000. “We’re so grateful,” Julie says, “for all the support we’ve received from family, friends and local businesses. Their involvement makes everything we do possible.”
Robby’s sister Emily and brother Matthew have also joined in, helping with both the CHOC Walk planning and the golf tournament. Emily, now a high school senior, has been so inspired by Robby and her family’s experience here with us that she’s decided to study nursing in college. Her dream job according to her mom? To become a pediatric nurse at CHOC, of course.
While Julie says that Robby “remains our angel, our guiding light, a beacon of goodness and has forever left an impact on the lives he touched, at the end of the day it’s CHOC.”
Julie stresses how thankful she and husband Marty are “for the five years CHOC gave us with our son. The level of care and compassion that we received was extraordinary.” She marvels at how this ensured that Robby continued to thrive. She confides that “for us as first-time parents, it was such a scary moment and CHOC took us under their wings. They took care of us.”
“CHOC is a no-brainer fundraiser. I think everyone in our local community has been impacted or touched by CHOC. We could never raise enough money to pay back CHOC for what they gave us and the treatment and services they continue to provide to so many families in need.”