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Brown Takes The Time

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Donation to charity is always a good thing. Any person, regardless of bank-account heft, who gives money to a worthy cause is making a positive impact, without question.

When it comes to professional athletes, though, there might be one thing more valuable than money, and that's personal time. During a season, a player's free time is a prized commodity. There isn't much of it, and most often there are heavy demands placed on it.

That's what sets Dustin Brown apart. Like a lot of athletes -- including many on the Kings -- Brown donates money and lends his name to causes. He also, though, takes time to get personally involved in charity events, often putting a face in front of his good deeds.

This season alone, Brown has hosted a child for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and led the day-long building of a playground in Carson. For two years running, he's been a finalist for the NHL Foundation Award, which recognizes players'
community efforts.

``Giving money, donating money, is great, but when you can make a personal impact on someone's life, that's probably the best feeling you can have,'' Brown said. ``In terms of doing charity work, I try to do whatever I can.

``As athletes, we're in a position to give back. That (Make-A-Wish event) probably took me an hour, an hour and a half, and it made a big difference for that kid's morale.''

In recent years, Brown has rallied teammates to support relief efforts in Haiti, and his wife, Nicole, has been in the forefront as well. This year, Nicole Brown is raising her involvement in an annual golf tournament for the Child Abuse Prevention Center.

One can be certain that there's no ego in Brown's efforts. If anything, he's one of the quietest, most unassuming players on the Kings' roster, even though he's the team captain and is often known, on the ice, for his devastating hits.

To see Brown with 6-year-old Will McLeod last week made Brown's motivation
clear: his passion, in terms of charity, is to help children and make positive impacts on their lives.

``The opportunity to do something like what happened (with Will) is something I look forward to,'' Brown said. It was awesome.''

Will has been undergoing treatment for acute lymphatic leukemia for three years
-- he's currently in remission -- and during that treatment, the young Valley Village resident adopted Brown as his favorite player, for reasons not totally clear to his mother.

Under the Christmas tree last year, waiting for Will, was a Brown jersey, and when Will got the chance to make a ``wish,'' his choice was to meet his hockey hero.

``It's been great. It's been wonderful,'' Will's mother, Indira McLeod, said during the event. He's had just such a blast. He and his brother are having so much fun.''

It would have been easy for Brown to say no to Will, or to many charity events.
The hockey season is grueling on players. They're either practicing or playing every day, and even when they're not on the ice, there are off-ice workouts and rehabilitation sessions for ever-present nagging injuries.

Of course, for many there's also family. The Browns have two young sons, with another child on the way, and perhaps that's what makes Brown appreciate a child's dream all the more. Brown's second son, Mason, was born prematurely two years ago, and Brown had to leave the team temporarily. The fragility of children is not lost on him.

So, with assistance from the Kings, Brown gladly invited Will to join him at the training center in El Segundo last Friday. Will, his parents and brother, watched practice and then went on the ice with Brown and a couple teammates to skate and shoot pucks.

Afterward, Brown gave Will and his family a guided tour of the facility, then presented him with an overflowing basket full of Kings memorabilia and gifts.

There was nothing rushed or impatient about Brown's hosting of Will. He chatted, joked and smiled with Will, at one point sitting at his locker and putting eye-black stickers on the boy's face as his parents stood at a close distance and smiled.

``It's not too often that you can make a difference like that,'' Brown said.
``When it came across, and I found out about it, it was something I wanted to do right away. It was something that took me an hour after practice, and it was something that probably made a huge difference for him.''

Brown tried to talk Will into riding the Zamboni during the intermission of Saturday night's game, which the family attended, but Will was hesitant to accept the invitation. Otherwise, Will beamed as Brown gave him the guide tour.

Brown had no way of knowing what Will and his family had been through, the months of worry and emotional distress for everyone as Will went through his cancer treatments, but Will's parents understood perfectly, and were effusive in their appreciation.

``He's been through so much,'' Indira McLeod, WIll's mother, said. ``Our whole family has been through so much, both of my kids. This is just sort of a culmination, the light at the end of the tunnel, kind of. It's been a long road.
His treatment has been for three years, and even still, he has to go every month, he has to get labs every month.

``I said to him, `You know why you're getting this? Because of everything you've been through.' And his brother too, because he's had to endure a lot. For him, this has just been something special to look forward to.''

Over his years with the Kings, Brown has been involved in countless fundraising efforts and appearances, most involving local children. In September, Brown made a long-term impact when one of his big projects came to fruition. Through the KaBOOM! organization, Brown spearheaded efforts to do a playground rebuild in Carson.

One day after practice, Brown corralled a handful of teammates and spent several hours putting together playground equipment and playing and mingling with local children.

``Early on in your career, you're really just worried about staying in the NHL,'' Brown said. ``Now that I've been established, you kind of look around and realize, `I get to play hockey for a living,' and there are a lot less-fortunate people out there. I thought it was kind of my responsibility, being in the position I'm in, to try to help other people.''
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