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The Happiest Place

The happiest place in Orange County for Joy Ritchie is not in Anaheim; it is in the Mother Baby Unit at Hoag Newport Beach. She would know after volunteering at the welcome desk for 10 years as of January 2020. She falls in love with every baby and melts each time she sees new dads feed, change and cuddle their sons and daughters. She’s quick to explain with a smile that when her son and daughter were babies, “Men didn’t do those things back then!”

While each and every family is grateful to the cadre of volunteers, Joy is deeply grateful to them for giving her a purpose and a new family of friends.

“When my husband Bill died, I lost my best friend,” she says through the tears. She and her husband had been married for 52 years. Together they raised their two children and were generous donors to Hoag. While her husband grew the family business, All American Nut Company, which served clients like See’s Candies and Knott’s Berry Farm, Joy loved to give tours to school groups. But life took a tragic turn for her and Bill when their son passed away. A few years later, Joy faced life without her beloved husband.

A NEW CHOICE

For a year, she cried every day until she woke up one morning and realized she could spend the rest of her life in tears, or she could get back to living.

She called the Hoag Auxiliary, and they put her to work as a greeter in the Mother Baby Unit. Joy knew she’d found her new home. “Right after I began volunteering, my daughter told me she could see a difference in me,” she says.

One of her favorite memories is when she spotted a new dad reading to his new son. “He looked up at me and said, ‘He loves Sports Illustrated,’” she remembers with a laugh. She also loves her “repeat customers” and reuniting with Hoag babies who are now big brothers and sisters.

IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE

Not only does Joy enjoy her work, she has made a tight knit group of friends among her fellow volunteers. Together they have travelled through Europe, where they have run into Hoag nurses and staff. “The ladies I’ve met are there for the same reason: we get so much more back when we give,” she says.

When she’s not at Hoag, she enjoys planning holiday trips around the world with her daughter, son-in-law and adult grandchildren. For Joy, each day is a reminder to live life with a big, open heart. “It’s all about love,” she says.

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