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Jake T. Austin for Ronald McDonald House New York: Variety Power of Youth Honoree

'Wizards,' 'Fosters' thesp aims to help kids get involved and get educated about cancer

Acting since he was just 7, Jake T. Austin says he grew up doing funny voices and constantly trying to entertain.

The actor made a name for himself in Disney’s hit series “Wizards of Waverly Place” as the youngest sibling of Selena Gomez’s character. In addition to appearing in the new ABC Family series “The Fosters” and such movies as “Hotel for Dogs,” he has also parlayed his love of inventing characters into a thriving voiceover career. (Listen for him in “Rio,” its sequel and Nickelodeon’s “Go, Diego, Go!”)

For the native New Yorker, his affiliation with Ronald McDonald House has been important both personally and professionally: “The fact that my mom’s an oncology nurse means I’ve been very close to the world of cancer, and it’s not something to tiptoe away from,” he says. “So I’m using my position as a platform to bring a message to kids: to get involved, whether it be donating or educating themselves about the cause.”

SEE MORE: Variety Power of Youth Party Amps Kid Champs

Austin, who’s been an official youth ambassador for the org for two years, reports that he wanted to attach himself to Ronald McDonald House “because it spoke to my personality and my roots. We had a close family friend who just passed away from cancer, and I was in awe watching the courage and strength some of these patients have.”

SEE MORE: Hollywood Kids: How Do Young Actors Deal With Sexy, Violent Roles?

Austin’s involvement includes the cause’s annual Charity House Gala in New York and several fairs and carnivals held to raise donations and awareness. “And I make it a point to visit the House and reconnect with a lot of kids whenever I can,” he says.

SEE MORE: Variety’s Power of Youth Honorees:

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