Our Story

Meet Zachary

Zachary’s idea was to help brighten the day of children that are impacted by long term illness or disability by giving them LIGHTZ … a symbol of HOPE.

It was a rough beginning. Zachary was born on May 20, 2003 at four pounds, not able to breathe on his own or swallow. As a result, he required surgery at one month for a trach and a g-tube. He was later diagnosed with Myotubular Myopathy, which is a disease that causes the muscles to stop developing.

With a ventilator to help him breathe, he battled with numerous hospitalizations due to pneumonia or infection. Zachary’s muscles were weak, but his mind was not. He was a normal 16-year-old boy, who attended classes at Tesoro High School, in Las Flores, California. It was the best year of his life.   He would say that he loved school except for the homework. He would go through the halls and high five the other students.

The Story Behind The Lights

A close friend’s visit brought a string of Christmas lights. It was May … Yes, it was May. Festive. Fun. Party. With permission, they were strung up around the bed rails … flashing, blinking, slow fade … Red, yellow, blue, green. The lights brightened the space, became a conversation piece, were noticed and appreciated by the nurses, doctors, staff, and well, one very special boy, Zachary. After being in the hospital for seven days, Zachary woke up and started to acclimate to a new day. One day closer to going home, “Mom, can I tell you something? I REALLY like my lights.” “I am so happy about that, honey.” Mom hugged him.
“Mom, I have an idea, his eyes wide and bright, Expecting. Waiting. Hoping. “Can we do this for other kids?”.

Zachary’s Faith CLICK HERE

Zachary's Favorite Verses and Life Quotes CLICK HERE

 

Meet the Founders

brent-woodard

Brent Woodard

Founder & CEO

CHOC (12 of 21)

Susan Woodard

Founder

We are the proud parents of our beloved Zachary who went to Heaven on May 30, 2019 and Grace, who is a ray of sunshine wherever she goes!

Our lives were forever changed on May 20, 2003 the day Zachary was born. Immediately, we were thrust into a world of unknowns, stress, fear and anxiety. At the same time, our hearts were overflowing with unconditional love for our precious son. Our “new normal” was far from what we planned, and it involved numerous doctors, nurses, therapists, special education teachers, individualized education plans, medical equipment and supplies.

Zachary was a wonderful and loving son. He craved hugs and kisses. Oh… we wish that we could have one more day with him to tell him all the things we wanted to say and have 100 more hugs and kisses. Our hearts are broken; however, we hold on to the hope that we will see him again in Heaven. No longer will he be confined to a wheelchair and dependent upon medical equipment for his survival. Zachary is 100% perfect and living his eternal life in paradise.

Through it all, we know that Zachary helped us to become a better version of ourselves. He exposed us to a brand-new world of Children’s Hospitals and children/families facing extremely difficult circumstances. We have observed a great need to serve this community that at times feels hopeless and forgotten.

Susan and I are so thankful that we can continue Zachary’s legacy with LightZ of Hope. The goal of LightZ of Hope is to brighten the day of children facing long term illness or disability. In addition, we want families facing these challenges to feel encouraged and remain hopeful for a better tomorrow.

Board of Directors

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Jim Ervin

I’m Uncle Jim! Zachary was the best nephew in the galaxy and my most favorite superhero. Some of his superhero powers include looking for goodness and bringing out the best in others, spreading unconditional love and joy, and sharing his strong Christian faith and terrific sense of humor. This most amazing, caring and kind young man continues to influence my life and shape my heart in the most beautiful, positive and lasting ways. Zachary continues to light the way for others especially his Aunt Brooke, Cousin Cole and me!

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Dionne Petzold

I have been a teacher for 29 years in the Capistrano Unified School District. I was fortunate enough to be Zachary’s 5th grade teacher. The thing I loved most about Zachary was his smile and his sense of humor- it was infectious. Although he was new to the school and to my class, it took no time at all for him to make lifelong friends and shine his “light”.  We are all forever changed for the better because of the time we spent with Zachary.

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Gary Fitzpatrick

Gary Fitzpatrick has been coaching baseball for his son, Mark, and other special needs children for 17 years and met Zachary years ago when Gary's life got infinitely better by having Zachary on this Team. What Gary admires most about Zachary is his true appreciation for the life he was given, never wanting to change a thing, and the love and appreciation he had for his family, friends and support group.

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John Caldera

I am John Caldera, loving father, husband, and IT professional. I met Zachary at Challenger League Baseball and Football as his coach. We had an instant connection and a shared passion for NFL football. Zachary loved talking trash about my team, the Buffalo Bills which was always good for a few good laughs and l will always cherish the “guy banter” between the two of us.  I quickly recognized and admired Zachary’s radiant character was not confined by his wheelchair or disability.

Junior Board of Directors

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Jack Stevens

My name is Jack Stevens and I am a Junior at Tesoro High School. I had the pleasure of meeting Zachary through Best Buddies, where we grew a very special friendship. To this day, I admire Zachary’s strong compassion for others, and his care for his friends and family. I am honored to be a part of Zachary’s legacy and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellentesque lacinia vestibulum aliquet. Maecenas sit amet sem vel urna dignissim pellentesque. Pellentesque ut odio id arcu faucibus imperdiet. Donec nisi enim, posuere eget cursus vel, laoreet eu massa. Etiam non augue convallis, vestibulum metus et, euismod lacus. Integer quis mi vitae orci lobortis eleifend. Mauris tristique odio elit, non hendrerit diam ultrices eget. Donec et diam ut libero tincidunt tincidunt. Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Vestibulum at pretium dui.

Spencer Brown

Spencer Brown is a 10th grader at Tesoro High School in Las Flores, California.  He first met Zachary in fifth grade when Zachary began to attend public school.  After a short period of getting to know each other, the boys realized that they lived a block apart. They enjoyed playing chess, video games and bonding over their mutual love of all things sports.  Spencer most remembers Zachary for his fondness of practical jokes and his never ending kindness toward others.  Zachary had a profound impact on Spencer and taught him to always have a positive outlook and appreciation for life.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellentesque lacinia vestibulum aliquet. Maecenas sit amet sem vel urna dignissim pellentesque. Pellentesque ut odio id arcu faucibus imperdiet. Donec nisi enim, posuere eget cursus vel, laoreet eu massa. Etiam non augue convallis, vestibulum metus et, euismod lacus. Integer quis mi vitae orci lobortis eleifend. Mauris tristique odio elit, non hendrerit diam ultrices eget. Donec et diam ut libero tincidunt tincidunt. Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Vestibulum at pretium dui.

Brendan Hale

I am currently attending Orange Lutheran High School and I am a sophomore there. I moved out to California from Ohio in fourth grade and met Zachary when I was in fifth. That first time meeting him would ultimately change my life and shaped me into the person I am today without me knowing it. I love him and miss him. He was not only a friend to me, but in the eyes of my family and I, he was more like a brother.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellentesque lacinia vestibulum aliquet. Maecenas sit amet sem vel urna dignissim pellentesque. Pellentesque ut odio id arcu faucibus imperdiet. Donec nisi enim, posuere eget cursus vel, laoreet eu massa. Etiam non augue convallis, vestibulum metus et, euismod lacus. Integer quis mi vitae orci lobortis eleifend. Mauris tristique odio elit, non hendrerit diam ultrices eget. Donec et diam ut libero tincidunt tincidunt. Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Vestibulum at pretium dui.

Sam Frazier

My name is Sam Frazier and I’m a sophomore at Tesoro high school. I want to, one day, be a special education teacher, as I care about students who struggle in school and want to help them do their best. I met Zachary in freshman English class and was immediately drawn to his positive attitude and kind nature. Getting to know Zachary was one of the highlights of my first year of high school. Zachary made me want to be a better person; he had that ability to bring the best out of the people around him.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellentesque lacinia vestibulum aliquet. Maecenas sit amet sem vel urna dignissim pellentesque. Pellentesque ut odio id arcu faucibus imperdiet. Donec nisi enim, posuere eget cursus vel, laoreet eu massa. Etiam non augue convallis, vestibulum metus et, euismod lacus. Integer quis mi vitae orci lobortis eleifend. Mauris tristique odio elit, non hendrerit diam ultrices eget. Donec et diam ut libero tincidunt tincidunt. Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Vestibulum at pretium dui.

Kalihan Reese

My name is Kalihan Reese and I met Zachary last year in our math class when we got moved to the same table. Zach always entertained me with the things he would say, sometimes hilarious and spunky, but sometimes extremely wise and mature. Zach is my biggest inspiration in every way, from the way he loved others to the way he found joy in the hardest of times. He barely complained, he never gave up, and he ALWAYS made me laugh. I am so blessed to have known Zach and to have had such a real, genuine friendship in my life.

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Carson Caldera

I am Carson Caldera, a faithful friend and student at Tesoro High School. I met Zachary while playing challenger league baseball and flag football. Zachary and I shared a bond on and off the field.  I would often act as Zachary’s “protector” during football games when other kids tried to get too close.   We enjoyed seeing each other almost every day at school, joking around, and playing competitive games.  I consider Zachary to be my little brother and best friend.

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Owen Ritscher

My name is Owen Ritscher and I first met Zachary in 5th grade. We bonded throughout the end of elementary school and into middle school all the way up to high school. I truly admired his courage. Zachary’s courage was powerful. He devoted himself to everything he did and was willing to do things outside his comfort zone for the benefit of everyone else. He was so incredible loving and he became a monumental figure in my life.

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