The former Olympic figure skater, 61, is releasing a book to help kids talk about cancer — which features illustrations by country star Brad Paisley, 47

By Lindsay Kimble
November 06, 2019 02:15 PM

Scott Hamilton has a new story to tell.

The former Olympic figure skater, 61, is releasing a children’s book, geared at helping kids talk about cancer. Fritzy Finds a Hat — due out Feb. 4, 2020 — will also feature illustrations by Hamilton’s pal, country star Brad Paisley, 47.

“It’s really been a group project, and it’s up to me to kind of get out there and make sure that it gets all the attention it deserves,” Hamilton tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

Fritzy Finds a Hat follows the ice skating son of a woman with cancer. Throughout the book, Fritzy searches for hats his mom can wear as she undergoes cancer treatments.

“It helps parents communicate with their children that they can participate in everything that mom or dad is going through,” says Hamilton, adding, “I think it’s a beautiful book, and in a very gentle way it helps empower kids to know that they can do their part — they can do their bit in this story.”

Credit: Nathan Congleton/NBC/Getty

Getting Paisley on board wasn’t easy — not because the singer wasn’t interested, but because “he’s kind of a busy guy.”

“He’s extremely dedicated to his art, and he loves to paint,” Hamilton says, praising the illustrations as “so extremely well done.”

The book, obviously, has a special connection to Hamilton’s own life: in 1997, he overcame a battle with testicular cancer; and he’s faced benign pituitary tumors multiple times. Before that, Hamilton’s mother died at 49 two years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I think this is a reminder of how she went through her battle, and after she passed, that was when I decided that I wanted to honor her every way I could,” Hamilton explains. “This book is a beautiful way to do that.”

And his mother’s grace and sense of humor through it all inspired Hamilton’s own approach to his health.

“When I was first diagnosed I was so scared,” he says. “I just saw myself diminishing, and I saw what she went through. Her battle really only lasted a little less than two years, or right at two years, and it was rough. I mean, it was really rough to watch her deal with so much pain. But then when I was diagnosed, she came back to me in a different way.”

Hamilton — who won a gold medal in figure skating at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo and later launched the ever-popular Stars on Ice franchise — was inspired by both his and her journey to start the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation. Among other things, the foundation supports research that accelerates the advancement of less toxic treatments for isolated cancers and tumors with precision proton beam therapy and prevention of the spread of cancer with targeted immunotherapy drugs. Proceeds from the book will benefit both CARES and the Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida.

“We sat down and we said, ‘What is a gap in the cancer community that really needs to be filled?’ ” he says of creating the foundation. CARES also hosts an annual event geared at generating funds. This year, the 4th annual Scott Hamilton & Friends ice skating and music show will also celebrate the 35th anniversary of his Olympic gold medal win.

Hosted at Bridgestone Arena in his hometown of Nashville on November 24, the event will feature Dancing with the Stars’ alumni and Olympic ice dancing gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White and a roster of accomplished figure skaters that will skate to music performed live by Kenny Loggins, Gavin DeGraw, Runaway June, MercyMe, Jonathan Cain of Journey and former lead singer of Kansas, John Elefante. Sheryl Crow will co-host the night with Hamilton.

Hamilton’s health journey is not over, though — he is currently living with a benign brain tumor. Luckily, he recently received some good news.

“I recently went in for my scans and was really happy to learn that the tumor has shrunk,” he says.

And Hamilton — a father of four — stays positive throughout it all: “I’ve failed enough and I’ve succeeded enough where I kind of feel like I understand them both.”

“I look at life maybe differently than many people,” he says. “I mean, I had a childhood illness, I had cancer, I’ve had these three brain tumors. I understand that our bodies are extremely fragile, yet incredibly resilient, but ultimately temporary. I look at my days as important. I try not to take for granted anything. With my mom, I realized that her days were her days, and they were powerful.”