RJ Mitte, known for his roles with Breaking Bad and ABC Family’s Switched at Birth, was the first recipient of the Starbright World Inspiration Award at the first annual Starlight Awards event in Los Angeles on Oct. 23.
Presented by Shriners International Imperial Potentate Dale Stauss, Mitte received this award to honor his contributions to Shriner’s Hospitals for Children by participating on walks, visiting patients at the hospital, and being an inspiration to today’s parents and their children as a former Shriners patient.
“I love Shriners, which gave me the ability to be who I am today, and without Shriners, I wouldn’t be here,” Mitte said, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 3. “Shriners shows me how they can improve the lives of children, and I’m honored to be able to be part of Shriners.” Mitte recalls seeing children who were severely burned at one of the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children.
The Starbright World Inspiration Award was presented to Mitte, who is a public figure through his roles on television, because he has inspired parents and the Starbright World online community of teens with chronic illness and their siblings.
Accepting his award, RJ Mitte thanked Starlight saying, “I am truly moved to receive the first-ever Starbright World Inspiration Award from Starlight Children’s Foundation, and to be recognized for something I enjoy doing so much and something that gives back to me ten-fold.”
Mitte has been an activist for the disability community through his work for United Cerebral Palsy, in comment to receiving the award, he was at a point when he was ready to give up as a role model for the disability community. I was ready to give up hope because I felt I didn’t have an effect on anyone online—until I met a man, a father of twins with cerebral palsy, told me that he recognized me through my work as a disability advocate, Mitte said, who often meets children of all ages during his advocate work against bullying and disability. The internet allows me to reach my goal to make a change by improving the lives and future of children.
Additionally, the Starbright World online community was founded by filmmaker and Chairman Emeritus Steven Spielberg and the late General H. Norman Schwarzkopf in 1995 as the first-ever private social network.
Starbright World Teens Kara Denson, 17, of Seattle and Brianna Milton, 19, of Las Vegas both came to the Starlight Awards evening, being able to meet Mitte.
They utilize this website, www.Starbrightworld.org, to find other teens who deal with chronic illness. Both girls have the chance to meet other teens who have gone through similar experiences through this online program through Starlight Children’s Foundation.
“Starbright World is my second home,” Milton said, who had 14 surgeries to treat her scoliosis condition due to her rare Mitochondrial Disease that causes her to have very weak muscles. Milton also mentioned that she uses chat room when she was hospitalized so she could talk with teens who can understand what she is going through. Her favorite Starlight memory was being filmed on ABC’s The Bachelor with Sean Lowe.
“Starbright World has helped me deal with my condition by being able to talk to people my age who are going through the same thing. We can share hospital experiences and even laugh about some of our medical experiences,” Milton said.
Kara also added that Starbrightworld.org helps her deal with being at the doctor’s office, as she has a suspected unknown metabolic condition and/or severe gastroparesis.
“The best thing about Starbright World is that it makes me forget that I am sick, and makes me feel like I am living a regular life. Plus, if I am worried about a certain treatment that I might do, I can always ask my Starbright World friends for help and support. I always feel much safer and reassured after I know one of my friends has had the same treatment!” Kara said.
She also commented that the fun games and interaction with people through Starbright World helps her forget how ill she feels with her condition. “Starbright World is a great place for me to connect with people that understand my daily struggles, and a place for me to constantly feel supported by my friends” Kara said, who has had flown across country to meet her online friends she met through Starbright.
Follow Mitte by Twitter: @RJMitte.