Players PromiseSep 18, 2018

Jalen Robinson and The Children's Inn

Maryland native Jalen Robinson has stayed close to home both on the field and off. Robinson grew up playing in Bethesda, and for the DC United Academy before signing to play at Wake Forest University.  After two years with the Demon Deacons, he signed a homegrown contract that brought him back to DC United in 2014 and went on to make his MLS debut in 2016. 

Off the field, Robinson has found a passion for giving back to the community at The Children's Inn at NIH in Bethesda. The Children's Inn provides "a place like home" for children and their families while they participate in research studies at the National Institute of Health. After undergoing treatments, kids and their families can retreat to The Inn which strives to provide respite and a supportive, comforting environment. Since 2016, Robinson has made regular visits to The Inn where he bonds with the kids, participating in games and activities that provide a much needed distraction for both them and their families. 

Q: First, can you talk a little about your journey to the MLS?

I grew up playing soccer in the Bethesda area and I played for the Bethesda Arsenal. After they folded, I ended up going to DC United Academy. After my academy days I went to Wake Forest for two years, and then ended up signing a homegrown deal which brought me back to DC United.

Q: How did you first learn about Children’s Inn and what made you want to be involved with them?

I did my first Children’s Inn appearance in 2016 I believe, and I got in touch with them through the DC United community relations person at the time. Once I did that, it was my favorite appearance of the year out of everything that we did. Since then I have been back every year, and I also donate to them. I love going back, I'm actually going back at the end of this month since it's Kick Childhood Cancer month in the MLS. 

Q: What makes these visits so special to you?

It’s just seeing how strong the kids are. They’re going through things that they don’t even know could possibly hurt them, but yet they’re smiling through it all. They’re happy at the end of the day, there’s no worries. They are the nicest patients ever. It’s really heart throbbing whenever I go back and they want to do stuff with me. Whether it’s calling out bingo, or doing trivia or a puzzle, everyone wants to engage and do something with you. It just melts my heart whenever I go back there and get to hang out with the kids. There are always kids there that want to kick a soccer ball, so we do whatever they can do at the time because some might be on IV’s or too weak to kick a ball.

You’re only a soccer player for X amount of years, but these relationships will last a lifetime."

Q: How have these visits impacted you?

Honestly, I feel like I gain more from the visits than they do. For me, it’s just one day and I can leave there and do what I want, but they have to go back there the next day. I take that to heart, like this is what I play for, I'm playing for the people that can’t.

Q: You guys have busy schedules, why do you think it’s important to take the time to give back?

We’re always traveling and always playing, but whenever there is a free weekend I think it’s important to give back because there is so much to gain. You’re only a soccer player for X amount of years, but these relationships will last a lifetime. You have the chance to put a smile on kids' faces. I know some people think you can do that with soccer alone, but it's just not as personal. When you’re there with the kids it’s so personal because you’re actually with them and playing around, and you can actually visibly see that you’re making them happy and making them forget about what they’re going through. So I think it's important to give back and to do something to see that the game is there, but there's things that are bigger than it. 

You can follow Jalen on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more about The Inn on their website, and follow their story on Twitter and Instagram.