The power of a child's smile is second to none.
And the way the kids that joined the Colorado Avalanche at the 21st annual Charity Brunch walk through life with beaming smiles and positive attitudes despite their hardships is a special kind of super power.
The 2018 Avalanche Charity Brunch, hosted by the Avs Better Halves, showcased just how much these kids are admired as superheroes. The event took place on Sunday, and like every year, the day was nothing short of heartwarming.
The kids and their families that the Avs organization hosted are all dealing with medical challenges, ranging from cancer to Down syndrome to rare blood diseases, and each child has faced an incredible number of hardships and obstacles at a young age.
"I just want to thank everybody for coming here, supporting us and keep cheering us on, but tonight you guys are cheering on the real heroes and those are the little kids," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog told the audience that packed the main ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center.
Each child and their family spent the majority of the day hanging out with the Avs player they were grouped with, making new friends, playing games like Connect 4 and getting a superhero treatment and attire before walking down the fashion runway.
"We are hockey players and at the end of the day it's just a game, and it's something we are lucky to do," said Tyson Barrie after the Charity Brunch. "Whether it's a couple hours or whatever it is that you can go out into the community and if you can touch someone's life in one way or another, I think it's our responsibility to do that. It was a great event, and it's something that we are proud to do."
The morning started with the players meeting their individual families and spending some time getting to know one another while playing board games and brainstorming runway moves.
The players then went upstairs after the meet and greet to serve brunch to the sellout crowd, while the kids got ready for the spotlight. They spent an hour getting styled up in their new outfits from Dillard's and the girls got their hair and makeup professionally done.
Barrie was paired with 12-year-old Tatum, who lives with from Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes complications in many everyday activities. She requires a wheel chair to help get herself around, and the wheelchair also has the technology to help her communicate.
"That was the first time I got to meet her, and obviously it was a pretty special day," Barrie said of Tatum. "She couldn't talk and she couldn't communicate that well, but you could just tell from talking to her parents. Then when we got her in the wheelchair and we were getting ready to walk down the runway, you could just see how excited she was, she was just smiling."
Barrie escorted Tatum down the runway, helping her complete the walk with no wheelchair and lots of smiles. The duo made a second trip down the walkway during the finale, and he held her in his arms while the rest of his teammates and kids made another trip on stage.
"It means a lot to us, and it's really an eye opener. Whatever you're going through, you're going through in your own life and when you're having struggles, it can always be worse," said Barrie. "If you look at the kids and their outlook and how positive they are and how much fun they are having, it kind of leaves you no excuse to have a bad day."
Video: The 2018 Avalanche Charity Brunch fashion show
Landeskog was paired with Porter, a 2-year old boy that was diagnosed with leukemia last year and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. However, it became immediately apparent that nothing this young boy is going through could stop him from stealing the hearts of everyone in the audience, as he rocked a suit jacket, sunglasses, a top hat and a million-dollar smile down the runway with his new friend Gabe.
As Landeskog walked out to address the crowd after every pair had had their spotlight moment, he held with him a stuffed whale that had been lent to him by Porter.
"Porter, I am not going to say he was nervous, but I think he saw that I was a little nervous before this so he gave me his whale to hold onto," Landeskog said.
That was just one of the many examples of how much kindness and generosity these kids had to give those around them and how they touched the lives of every attendee on Sunday, even in the few hours spent with their shining smiles and amazing families.
"I think I speak for my whole team when I say this is one of our favorite days of the year, and I think you guys can tell why it is as well," Landeskog said. "These kids and all of you guys and your beautiful families, taking us in for a day and just made us a part of your families. It is always a lot of fun and these kids, they are going through a lot, but they come here and they make us happy and it seems like it works both ways. It's a lot of fun."
The Charity Brunch has been a long-time tradition of the Avalanche, and each year is a reminder of the power of a smile from a different group of superheroes.