Figure skaters are trained to wear smiles while on the ice competing or performing. When it comes to Jason Brown, the smile is authentic, and it rarely leaves his face.
Among the times Brown beams most are when he's interacting with children and families from Ronald McDonald House Charities. Indeed, those are gold medal times for the one-time Olympian who has a strong shot at making the U.S. team for February's Winter Games.
“It is truly incredible,” Brown says. "To be honest, I got involved with this organization to give back to the communities in which I skated. Family is such an important value, and kids, of course, and I really wanted to do something and give back to a charity that fulfilled those two things. And at the same time, it could be a charity that I could get whatever fans in that city or country and get them involved and have them feel they are making a contribution in their community.
“I fell in love with this organization and it made me see the world in a different way and made me appreciate health in a different way than I had before. And they are so inspiring; everyone I have met throughout the organization is so inspiring.”
Brown has traveled the globe as a skater, and at nearly every stop he has appeared at events for RMHC. A nonprofit corporation that creates, finds, and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families, RMHC has an international network of more than 260 Chapters in 62 countries and regions. It enables, facilitates and supports family centered care through its three core programs: the Ronald McDonald House, the Ronald McDonald Family Room and the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. RMHC programs help families with ill or injured children stay together and near leading hospitals and health care services worldwide.
Since 2014, when he made the Olympic squad, Brown has partnered with RMHC. Back then, at a Skate America competition in Illinois, he announced that all the stuffed animals thrown onto the ice after he performed — a tradition in the sport — would be given to a local chapter. Brown even personally delivered the gifts and spent time with RMHC children and families in Chicago.
That has continued around the world.
“One of the coolest things is that those communities each have a specific house, while under the big tent (of the organization),” Brown explains. "Each individual house is its own entity and it is really incredible to visit houses from all over the world and take part in or help raise money for, or donate very specific things to what that house and people need.
"Each experience is so special and unique and rewarding. I think what makes it so special, I do travel a lot and when my family is able to come with me on a trip and I have that piece of home traveling with me, well, that is something so important to the healing process. These kids are going through situations no kids should have to go through, and then imagine having to go through it alone. Or the parent struggling to get from a sibling to their kid in the hospital. Whatever it is, it is a weight off for them to have (RMHC facilities).
“And they are also around other families going through similar experiences. They can lean on and talk to and they can relate to one another in a way so many people that don’t have those same shared experiences aren't able to really know what each other is going through.”
Brown has visited Ronald McDonald House programs ranging from Sapporo, Japan, to Grenoble, France, to Montreal and Vancouver to U.S. stops in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Las Vegas, Detroit, and southern California. He spends time with RMHC children and their families, continues to fulfill those families’ wish lists, helps with sponsor meals and raises money for the organization.
“Just making sure I continue to echo and support the Ronald McDonald House and their mission through the holiday season, and kind of raise that awareness,” he says.
You can be sure Brown was smiling when he said it.
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