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A Season (and lifetime) of Giving

The Thurman family volunteers year-round, including the holiday season

The Thurman family focuses on charity during the holidays.


Joy Thurman might just be the busiest woman in Seattle this holiday season. 

Joy is a fourth-year medical student at University of Washington, a mother of a 3½-year-old daughter and expecting a new baby any second (if she or he hasn’t already arrived). When she’s not hitting the books or working at Harborview, she volunteers at the White Center food bank with her father, her husband, and daughter Andersyn. 

“I always get the most out of the work I don’t get paid for,” says Joy. When Andersyn was old enough to stand and hold things on her own, she joined her mom at the food bank, standing up on milk crates to give out cans. 

“She loves going to the food bank, and everyone always really enjoys having her there,” says Joy. The family volunteers year-round, including the holiday season. 

Born and raised in South Seattle, she met her husband, Nic, a neonatal intensive-care unit nurse, while attending Western Washington University in Bellingham. The couple celebrates Christmas in the culinary traditions of their blended family. Thurman is half African American, half Filipino, and her husband is Vietnamese American. 

“We eat Southern foods like succotash at my grandma’s house, Filipino dishes and American food at my mom’s house and Vietnamese food with Nic’s family,” says Joy. 

Growing up as a person of color without role models in medicine, she decided to found Doctor for a Day, a UW student group dedicated to increasing the number of people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in healthcare. The group hosts workshops for middle and high school students of color. Kids learn how to suture with bananas, dissect organs and take blood pressure. 

“It is one of the most fun, fulfilling things I get to do,” says Joy. “Showing the kids gross things like brains and seeing their little faces just brings me so much joy.”  

She hopes to share this love of giving with her family this holiday season — though Christmas this year might be more focused on grabbing “zzzz”s than sharing “ho-ho-hos” with a newborn in tow. 

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