Eric Winter is speaking out about the power of giving back — and how he’s passing its importance along to his daughter.
The Witches of East End star spoke with PEOPLE about his recent visit to Starlight Children Foundation‘s nonprofit White Memorial Medical Center. During his stay, Winter read from his upcoming children’s book — which he co-wrote alongside wife Roselyn Sánchez — to moms and their babies in the hospital’s NICU.
“This was a really incredible experience,” shares the 40-year-old actor. “I was able to go into the NICU and see so many young kids – one was born at 24 weeks, which blew my mind. And he was a pound when he was born.”
“Spending time with him and his mom and being able to read our book, Sebi and the Land of Cha Cha Cha, was an incredibly special moment,” he adds.
“I got to read to a handful of children, even though they’re really young … I remember reading to my daughter at that age and how important that is, so the moms were super appreciative of it. It was a fulfilling experience.”
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He tells PEOPLE that giving back has “always been a big part of [his] life” and that of his Devious Maids star wife — a priority that has only become more poignant since their daughter Sebella “Sebi” Rose, now 5, was born.
“It’s grown in a way of being able to include her and teach her about it, which I really love,” he says. “I want her to have knowledge of these things and know how to give back. She was with us at charities in Puerto Rico when she was really young, and she would go and give presents at the orphanage for Christmas.”
“Even when I told her I was coming here today, she was like, ‘Really?’ ” he continues. “[It’s about] trying to explain to her that not every kid gets the same experience in life, [and] you want to give them as much as you can so they can feel all that inclusion. It was great for her to hear it and experience it.”
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And the Starlight Children Foundation has a special place in Winter’s heart in particular. “Starlight is great because they’re involved with many different hospitals,” he explains. “White Memorial Hospital is not one that gets as much foot traffic with people coming in and spending the additional time.”
“It’s an amazing foundation giving back in so many ways,” the Days of Our Lives alum continues. “It’s opportunities like this, where for us, they think we’re doing the good deed for them, but really we’re so fortunate to be in this position to share our love and time with these families.”
He adds, “I’m super grateful for it. It’s amazing what they’re doing.”
The “cha cha cha” aspect of the couple’s authorial debut (which has been underway “for a few years”) was inspired by Sánchez, 44, who is from Puerto Rico and “grew up her whole life dancing and performing.”
“We danced the cha-cha at our wedding,” Winter shares. “As we were reading to our daughter, we realized books were all about ballet … And we felt there was a need in the market – our daughter being half Puerto Rican – to talk about that heritage and the culture that she and my wife know so well.”
Winter admits his life “has flipped upside on its head” since he became a parent, but “there’s nothing like the love and where it takes you. The connection you feel is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced in that way.”
But what does Sebi think about having a book’s protagonist named after her? “She’s super into it,” the father of one says. “At first she was like, ‘What do you mean I’m in a book?’ She’s super flattered by it.”
Sebi and the Land of Cha Cha Cha, out Sept. 5, is available for pre-order now on amazon.com.
- With reporting by LINDSAY KIMBLE