THROUGH THE EYES OF A VOLUNTEER
CHOC FOLLIES MEMBER’S PHILANTHROPIC JOURNEY REFLECTS HER HEART FOR CHILDREN
When the curtain rose on the 20th Anniversary CHOC Follies production, “CHOC Around The Clock,” in spring 2017, Lauren Karg Johnston took to the stage and did what she had done for 17 continuous years: perform her heart out to raise money for the CHOC Children’s Foundation.
“Children are our future and it is so important to have every child be the healthiest he or she can be,” Lauren says. “CHOC Children’s is dedicated to helping children thrive and succeed, regardless of their ability to pay, and it is vital that we support this mission.”
Over the past two decades, the CHOC Follies has been one of Orange County’s most popular fundraising events, featuring a cast and crew of more than 100 enthusiastic community members singing and dancing in professionally choreographed shows. The annual event has raised over $9 million since it first began.
Lauren successfully auditioned for her first Follies as soon as she turned 21. It was the perfect fit: In her childhood, she performed throughout Orange County in Opera Pacific’s “La Boheme,” “Turandot” and “A Masked Ball,” and South Coast Repertory’s “A Christmas Carol”; graced the stage with the Kirov Ballet; and performed in the Western states with TKO-The Technical Knock Outs.
In the past 17 years, Lauren graduated from Chapman University; became a National Board Certified Teacher in the Orange Unified School District, where she received Teacher of the Year accolades in 2010; got married; and had two sons. And she never missed one Follies performance. She was involved in the Follies two weeks after giving birth to her now 5-year-old son, and performed at 31/2 months pregnant with her now 2-year-old son.
While every Follies has been special, the highlight for Lauren was her opportunity to dance with Dick Van Dyke in the 2004 Follies “Blast Through the Past.” Lauren recalls, “I will never forget that moment when we were dancing arm-in-arm on stage and I could see the twinkle in his eye. It was magical.”
The CHOC Follies gives Lauren and her fellow volunteers the opportunity to see firsthand the results of their fundraising efforts. “During the rehearsals, we get to meet some of the patients and parents who talk about their experiences at CHOC, and also listen to the physicians share their accomplishments,” Lauren says. “It really brings home why we are doing what we do.”
Lauren was so inspired by the CHOC Foundation’s mission that for the past five years she has also been involved with the CHOC Glass Slipper Guild, serving as Vice President, Ways and Means.
“I am so glad I got my foot in the door 17 years ago as a senior in college and had the opportunity to give back to the children in our community,” Lauren says. “Every day I do something for CHOC, and I look forward to continuing to grow in my philanthropic journey.”