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Random Acts in the W is a community-focused campaign developed to give back to Caps fans surrounding the everyday moments in which individuals may need their spirits lifted or efforts recognized.

The hockey community is like a family and the one here in the DMV is no exception. That’s especially true for the hockey loving Braun family who has had to endure the unthinkable over the past nine months.

Hockey players and brothers Jacob and Gerard Braun (13 and 11 years old, respectively) were both badly burned in a tragic accident in September of 2023.

It can often feel impossible to find the positives during such a tough time, but somehow the Brauns have been able to do so.

“Our life since early September has obviously been very unpredictable and challenging in many ways for us all, but we really choose to focus on all the light shining through the clouds,” father Justin said.

“That’s the thing about faith; even on a cloudy day, you know the sun is still out there blasting away, but sometimes you just can’t see it, so you ride the storm out and find gratitude in the little things, and you realize, the little things aren’t really little at all.”

Jacob and Gerard started playing hockey at a young age. They got connected with the Learn to Play program in Laurel, MD and fell in love with the game.

“I’m so glad my boys are hockey players, because the game gave them the motivation to strive for a full recovery, and training they needed to deal with the ups and downs, courageously and thoughtfully.”

Their journeys to recovery have been different based on the severity of injuries but if there was one thing they shared through it all, it was the desire to rejoin their youth hockey teams.

Jacob was able to get back on the ice with the Bowie Bruins just a few weeks following his surgery and in an awesome turn of events, scored a goal in his first game back.

He picked his opponent’s pocket just inside the blue line and went in all alone on the opposing goalie.

“You could hear a pin drop in that rink because everyone knew exactly what was about to happen,” Justin said.

Jacob shifted the puck to his forehand and fired the puck right through the five hole and into the back of the net.

“All of the kids on the bench, the coaches, the dad working the door in the penalty box, and all the parents in the stands went ballistic,” he said. “The best goal in the history of hockey as far as im concerned.”

For Gerard, the road back on the ice hasn’t been as quick. He was able to return to practices after the new year but hasn’t been able to play in a game with his team—yet.

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“Gerard’s recovery story is still being written,” said Justin. “But the way his team came together like a family to support him all the way through his recovery was nothing short of amazing.”

When the Capitals heard about Jacob and Gerard’s story, they immediately wanted to reach out and offer support. They sent the boys a care package which included signed pucks from Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie and an invite to a game when they could make it.

The family ended up coming to the final regular season home game where they watched a massive win and received two ‘W’ jerseys.

The boys also got the limited opportunity to go down on the ice for the annual ‘Jerseys Off Our Back’ presentation.

They were paired up with young forwards Hendrix Lapierre and Connor McMichael.

“I was really excited to get to go on the ice. It was a really cool experience meeting an NHL player up close like that,” Jacob said.

“They were a lot bigger than I thought,” said Gerard.

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The Capitals connection doesn’t stop there though—in a pleasant turn of events, the Brauns got connected with Capitals alumni Aaron Volpatti.

Volpatti is a fellow burn survivor who is now a motivational speaker and a cognitive performance coach, teaching people from all walks of life the super power of visualization that he discovered to recover from his burn injury all the way to the NHL.

A hockey dad connected the family with a Captain in the D.C. Fire Department who had just seen Volpatti speak at a convention at National Harbor and a week later, Gerard was on the phone with him.

“Aaron was the first person that could relate to what Gerard was going through, and he’s a professional athlete!” said Justin. “He came into our life at a time when Gerard needed a ray of hope, and Aaron totally delivered. It was really powerful when Aaron told Gerard he made it to the NHL not in spite of his burn injury, but because of the resiliency skills he developed as a result of working through his burn injury."

“It was really cool [working with Aaron] because he went through an experience exactly like me and powered through it and made it to the NHL,” said Jacob. “It makes me feel like if you put your mind to something, it’ll help you do what you want to do in life.”

Volpatti shared a few NHL stories as well as some pearls of wisdom from his life that stuck with them. He also joined the end of season party for Gerard’s team and shared the power of visualization with them

Through it all, the constant that has remained has been the people and love that has been shown to the family.

“The hockey culture and community has been a huge support for us on every leg of this journey,” Justin said.