Dustin Portillo of Riverview has a true servant’s heart. He has been putting smiles on the faces of everyone he has met over the years, and he has made a career out of making people smile.
“I grew up in Kansas City and at the age of 4, I told my parents I wanted to be a circus clown,” Portillo said. “I used to go to Ringling Brothers Circus every year when it came to town and I knew at that young age I wanted to be a clown.”
At 18 years old, he signed his contract with Ringling Bros., and at 19, he joined the circus and stayed for seven years.
“At 21, I became the manager of the clowns, and my job was to help develop the clown routines, hire, fire and run auditions for the clowns,” Portillo said. “I was the liaison between the clowns and the owners of the circus. I did 3,500 shows in those seven years and toured 48 cities a year and was on the road 11 months out of the year. I loved it and it was a dream job.”
He was scouted by McDonald’s at the age of 26 to become Ronald McDonald.
“I was Ronald McDonald for three and [a] half years,” Portillo said. “I was in the Macy’s parade and did a lot of their bigger national events and conventions. It was a phenomenal job.”
Things changed in October of 2017. He got a phone call saying that McDonald’s was doing away with Ronald McDonald, and Portillo was faced with the probability of not being able to make people smile. This wasn’t the case, though.
“Caspers Company called me and they were creating [a] position for me with the company,” Portillo said. “They wanted me to eventually become their vice president for community relations. I told the CEO I don’t know how I go from being a performer to working in community relations and he said, ‘You just didn’t know it, but your entire professional career was working in community relations.’”
Portillo is now known as ‘Mr. Dustin’ to many children in the community. This past February, he participated in the CEOs in Schools program, which is a program that benefits schools, students, CEOs and the community. Students benefit from meeting positive role models and seeing professionals show an interest in them, and CEOs learn about the challenges and opportunities in public schools that are preparing the future workforce.
“I spent the day at Summerfield Crossings Elementary,” Portillo said. “I met so many kids who walked up to me or shouted from the other side of the courtyard, ‘Hi, Mr. Dustin.’ I handed out 127 Happy Meal cards to the students who remembered my name. Principal Brian Harvey and the educators at Summerfield Crossings have been so awesome to work with for this event.”
Portillo feels blessed that he has had an amazing career making people smile.
“I love what I do and I love that I can do it with a school so close to my home in Riverview,” he said.