Why I Support: CHOC Saves the Life of a Cast Member’s Son

Last summer, Kimberley Jacob, a Learning Operations Manager for Disney University, decided she would support Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and CHOC Walk in the Park at Disneyland Resort by participating in the cast member exclusive Cast Charity Auction, which provides donations to help support children in need at CHOC. Little did Kimberley know that just a few weeks later, CHOC would be responsible for saving her son’s life.  

Kimberley describes her three-year-old son, Lawrence, as an energetic toddler who likes to play. After taking Lawrence in for a routine allergy test in August, she received a phone call the following morning while in the middle of training her fellow cast members at Disney University. Lawrence’s pediatrician informed Kimberley that she needed to bring him to the emergency room at CHOC, right away.  

“The pediatrician told me that all of Lawrence’s levels, both his red and white blood cells, as well as his platelets, were so low that they could not read them at the lab,” explains Kimberley.  “My leader, the cast members that I was training, as well as the Disney University team, all made sure that I could hold it together to call my partner, tell him what I had just been told and safely drive to CHOC.” 

Lawrence finds fun ways to pass the time in his hospital room at CHOC.

Lawrence finds fun ways to pass the time in his hospital room at CHOC.

Upon arriving at CHOC, Lawrence was quickly escorted to a separate area for further testing. After eight hours in the ER, two blood transfusions and one platelet transfusion, the doctors at CHOC informed Kimberley and her family that Lawrence would need to stay in the hospital for the foreseeable future. Despite this immensely difficult news, Kimberley quickly saw that the staff at CHOC would take incredible care of her son.  

“Lawrence loved the nurses and the doctors,” shares Kimberley. “There’s a Child Life Specialist at CHOC and that was one of the things that I thought was an absolute blessing. They know how to keep the kids distracted and how to keep the parents calm.”  

After a week at CHOC, Lawrence was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia, a condition in which the bone marrow stops functioning, requiring ongoing transfusions and therapies. From August to December 2023, three-year-old Lawrence received 17 platelet transfusions and eight blood transfusions total. Kimberley explains that she truly relied on her support system during this time, including the CHOC community.  

“All of our family lives out of state so there was no family here to help us,” says Kimberley. “We fully relied on CHOC and my Disney family that I’ve come to know over the years. That’s our tribe. That’s our village.”  

While the journey was incredibly challenging, Kimberley shares one joyous experience that she believes made all the difference for Lawrence.  

Lawrence makes memories with mom Kimberley and Mickey Mouse. 

Lawrence makes memories with mom Kimberley and Mickey Mouse. 

“After a few months, we got special permission [from the doctors] to bring Lawrence to Disneyland park if we promised to keep him in his stroller with our masks on, wipe down everything we touch and utilize park services like reserved parade seating or the automatic door systems,” says Kimberley. “We did that on a Sunday and when we went in for our labs on Monday, it was the very first time his immune system started having baby red blood cells. I truly think the boost of ‘happy’ helped. I think the people he saw helped.”  

Over nine months since first being admitted to CHOC, Kimberley says she is incredibly grateful for the nurses. “They would always ask how I was doing or just let me cry or let me ask questions 10 times because I didn’t hear it the first time,” says Kimberley. Today, Lawrence visits CHOC a few times a week for regular testing and treatments.  

This year, Kimberley plans to continue showing her support for CHOC by participating once again in the Cast Charity Auction, as well as walking with the Disney VoluntEARS Walk Team at CHOC Walk in the Park 2024 on July 21. She says fellow cast members are also joining the Disney VoluntEARS Walk Team in support of Lawrence and that she is inspired to make shirts to commemorate the day that say, “Love for Lawrence.”  

“I don’t know if the company knows how much of an impact they have through this partnership [with CHOC],” explains Kimberley. “They’re supporting something that saved my son. They’re helping a child live.”  

Whether it be bidding in the Cast Charity Auction, joining the Disney VoluntEARS Walk Team or volunteering at a water station at CHOC Walk in the Park itself, every bit of support from the Disney community brings joy to so many children and their families when it’s needed most – including cast members right here at Disneyland Resort.