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CHOC History

Since 1964, CHOC has nurtured, advanced and protected the health and well-being of children through innovative care and state-of-the-art facilities. What started as a 62-bed children’s hospital – the first in Orange County – has grown into a pediatric health care system serving multiple counties. CHOC’s rapid growth in size and community impact should be of no surprise, given its leadership and steadfast commitment to defining the future of pediatric medicine.


Helicopter flying above hospital building with people on the ground

Exterior view of CHOC Children's Hospital North Tower

Exterior view of CHOC Children's Bill Holmes South Tower at night


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. Their foresight prompted a connection with a larger hospital complex for the purpose of receiving government funding.

PhilanthropistWalt Disney

Walt Disney

Philanthropist Walter Knott

Walter Knott

Key Partnerships

Black and white archive photo of CHOC Hospital Construction

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange agreed to include CHOC in its major hospital expansion in Orange, Calif., and offered the land on which the pediatric hospital could be built. This marked the beginning of a long-standing relationship between CHOC, the Sisters of St. Joseph and St. Joseph Hospital, as well as shared medical services between the two health care facilities.

And though CHOC today provides patient departments and ancillary services in a single location, CHOC’s relationship with St. Joseph Hospital remains strong. The hospital is among CHOC’s many partnerships with organizations throughout the county and beyond, including more than 100 hospitals who refer to CHOC young patients in need of high-quality pediatric care.

Our First Patient

CHOC opened its doors Oct. 5, 1964, with 12-year-old Kendall “Ken” Spicer serving as its first official patient. Ken was one of only four patients admitted that day, but word of CHOC quickly spread. Within two months, approximately 300 children received treatment. In addition to opening specialty clinics, the hospital increased its total bed count to 104 in 1968.

A Time of Growth

CHOC’s clinical excellence and commitment to compassionate care spurred tremendous growth in the following years. Just one decade after opening, CHOC purchased an adjacent five-story building. The building was renovated and equipped with leading technology to support the addition of beds and services, including pediatric and neonatal intensive care units. Patients received cared in this facility until 1991, when CHOC opened a six-story, 192-bed hospital today known as the CHOC North Tower. Patients, families and visitors marveled at the impressive, modern facility with vibrant colors and a playful atmosphere designed to meet the unique needs of children.


CHOC Tower

Construction o the CHOC North Tower

CHOC at Mission Hospital

Following the opening of the CHOC North Tower, as well as an expanded outpatient clinic and new research facility in Orange, CHOC leaders began to explore opportunities to meet the health care needs of children and families in south Orange County. This led to the 1993 opening of CHOC at Mission Hospital, which then included 48 beds on the fifth floor of Mission Hospital. Today, while linked to Mission Hospital’s trauma center and high-level obstetric and perinatal programs, CHOC Mission operates as a separately licensed, 54-bed pediatric facility with its own medical staff and advanced pediatric services.

Hallway view at CHOC Children's at Mission Hospital

A New Era

Kim Cripe, CEO CHOC Children's

Under the direction of President and CEO Kim Cripe, CHOC launched an aggressive plan to expand volume and market share, poising CHOC to become a truly great children’s hospital. A key factor to the organization’s growth strategy was the launch of centers of excellence. These CHOC Institutes helped solidify the hospital’s role as a health care leader in the region, and attracted the best and brightest pediatric experts worldwide. The medical community responded by referring patients in record numbers, making CHOC one of the fastest-growing children’s hospitals in the state. CHOC quickly focused its energy and attention on a multiyear expansion plan and new strategic plan with a vision for CHOC to become a nationally recognized premier children’s hospital.

Inspired by its new vision and its commitment to sustain long-term growth, CHOC evolved from a community children’s hospital to a regional pediatric tertiary/quaternary referral center. An affiliation established in 2009 with the University of California, Irvine enhanced CHOC’s ability to provide world-class care. Through a combined residency program, the two leading institutions train high-quality pediatricians. The affiliation also ensures more children have access to leading-edge research.

UC Irvine logo

Stories Then and Now

In the 1960s, children with epilepsy relied solely on medication to limit seizures. Today, we have a variety of treatment options.

In the 1960s, childhood cancer survival rates were less than 20 percent. Today, they near 80 percent.

50 years ago, it took a long time to take an X-ray and get the film developed. Now, advanced technology allows us to take images in just seconds!

Though he may have had different looks, he has always brought smiles to our patients' faces. See how our beloved mascot Choco has changed over the years.

Bright Futures

Matia’s Story
5 year old Matia Ornelas sees her bright future in color, as a teacher who will show kids how to paint and draw.

Zeven’s Story
Zeven Addison sees his bright future through the lens of a video camera. He wants to get into the movies because of the “endless possibilities”.

Shelby’s Story
Cancer survivor Shelby Sacchette’s bright future involves a world where there’s a cure for all skin cancers.

AJ’s Story
AJ Vandermade’s bright future involves helping people whenever they need it, just like his mom who happens to be a nurse at CHOC.

The Bill Holmes Tower

CHOC patients in front of the Bill Holmes South Tower with Kim Cripe and Bill Holmes

While the CHOC and UC Irvine affiliation helped usher in a new era of pediatric care for the region, CHOC’s greatest transformation is linked to its newest facility: the Bill Holmes Tower. Opened in spring 2013, the seven-story facility was designed to make CHOC one of the safest, most advanced children’s hospitals in the world. It features the region’s only pediatric-dedicated emergency department, operating rooms, imaging services and clinical laboratory.

For the first time in CHOC’s history, all patient departments and ancillary services, previously shared with St. Joseph Hospital, are provided in a single location with a serene, healing and completely pediatric environment. In this unparalleled space, CHOC is blending cutting-edge technology, safety and science to improve the care and outcomes of children. Proud of its rich past, CHOC’s focus is on the future, and because of this, children’s futures are brighter than ever.