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Entrepreneurs with Hearts for Giving

Mike and Lori Gray share a passion for building and growing businesses that has led to an unbroken string of successful ventures over many years. They live in gratitude for their hard-earned successes, which makes it all the more meaningful for them to be able to give back.

The Grays' transformational gift, among the largest in Hoag history, speaks volumes about their commitment to the community, and their respect for Hoag.

After spending 25 years in the family business, St. John Knits, Mike “retired” for two weeks. He then started a new venture, Sweet Life Enterprises, in Santa Ana. Shortly after, he met Lori when he interviewed her for a sales and marketing position. She later became the senior vice president of sales and marketing and, after working together for a few years, the two married in 2003. The couple has four adult sons between them, three grandchildren and one on the way.

In 10 years, Mike and Lori grew Sweet Life from Mike’s favorite lunch spot to a food service company servicing more than 20,000 locations. When he sold the company in 2008, Sweet Life was growing at a rate of 65 percent a year and producing over one billion-plus Sweet Life cookies a year.

As the couple began thinking about estate planning, they met Julie Heggeness, JD, CSPG, TEP, executive director of gift planning for Hoag Hospital Foundation. “We wanted to use our resources as a tool to affect multiple lives, and Hoag seemed like a perfect avenue for that,” Lori shares. As they considered their decision, Mike and Lori had the opportunity to meet many of Hoag’s exceptional team, which further solidified their passion and respect for Hoag.

Growing up with an alcoholic mother, Mike often felt isolated, an isolation that he laments is pervasive in today’s society. “We live in a society of ‘I’ – iPhones, iPads, I-everything – versus thinking in terms of ‘we’,” he notes. “My wife and I want to be a part of the team that’s the ‘we’ group, and there are a lot of those folks at Hoag.”

Thanks to the Grays' generous donation, more individuals and families struggling with mental health and addiction issues can become part of the “we” community of Hoag services. “It is a blessing to be able to live here, and it’s a blessing to be able to be a part of giving back to the community,” says Mike. “To know that we have given something back to our community is a very special feeling.”

In honor of Mike and Lori’s transformational gift, Hoag Health Center Newport Beach has been named the Mike & Lori Gray Campus.