This past Saturday, everyone’s favorite Lakers personality spent the evening giving back to the community. Children and families staying at the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House (LARMH), a program of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California, received a visit from Los Angeles Laker Robert Sacre. He stopped by the home to prepare and join families for dinner alongside Vince Bryson, executive director and Steve Miano, board of trustees member for the House.
When I first entered the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House off of Fountain Ave in Los Angeles, I was not entirely sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised. Everything was clean, modern, and much resembled the newer housing complexes I have recently seen shoot up around Los Angeles.
Robert Sacre instantly stands out; at 7’0”, 260 lbs he is hard to miss. But it was his infectious smile, aimed towards the youngsters standing around him taking pictures, that lit up the room. You could tell he was so glad to be there. As I walked through the doors and looked around, my nerves vanished. A young girl flashed me a grin as if to say “welcome” and I instantly felt an overwhelming love in the room. It was as if I was walking into my mom’s house for Sunday dinner growing up and I am pretty sure the Ronald McDonald Foundation wants you to feel that way.
Executive Directer Vincent Bryson explained to me how the large group dinners worked, and why tonight was so special. About four times a week the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House has a group that comes in to cook for the 75 families that stay in the house. Sometimes it is a church group, or the House employees put on the feast. He even has a Buddhist organization that shows up the first Wednesday of every month to serve everyone; they have been doing so for fifteen years. But dinners are especially wonderful when someone like Sacre joins. The meals get everyone socializing, and for families struggling with the health of a child, meeting like parents in the same situation is refreshing. No one is making fun of the bald child going through chemo. No one is wondering why an eight year old girl has a prosthetic arm. Instead, everyone is eating, everyone is snapping photos with Robert, and everyone is enjoying themselves.
Robert isn’t new to this type of charity work. While at Gonzaga, he and his teammates participated in Coaches vs Cancer, and became particularly attached to a boy named Brandon who unfortunately passed away Robert’s senior year. When asked about the influence Brandon played in Sacre’s life, the Lakers center responded:
“Brandon was a big part of Gonzaga being successful. Our team played for him. He came to all the games he could, knew all of our names, and just inspired all of us.”
Robert admitted he has a Star Wars obsession and spoke about how he and Brandon would sit on the couch and talk about Yoda. It was the way the two bonded. Sacre continued to speak of his time working with the Ronald McDonald House as part of Coaches vs. Cancer many years ago during his off-seasons at Gonzaga. It was important for him to always stay involved, especially with a charity that helped so many kids who were struggling. Robert made it a point to help these children as much as he could, noticing that sometimes he forgot how special he was to these families.
“You take for granted that you are part of a team, like the Lakers. I forget sometimes that I am a big deal and my influence can mean a lot for many people. If I can help lift one kid up, and make him/her feel special, that is all that matters.”
Being a father himself, Robert understands that unconditional love. Cancer is a struggle for many, but it seems especially sad when it involves a child. It is the ultimate parental want to take that pain away, when really, your loved one has to fight that battle on their own. I couldn’t imagine what that would feel like. When I asked him what it meant to him to participate in a cause like that at the Ronald McDonald House, he had this to say:
“I am fortunate that my son is healthy. As a parent, I am happy that he is well. But what a lot of these families at The House struggle with….well that could happen to any of us. I’ve lost family members to cancer and it is a tough battle to fight.”
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