NEW YORK — “This is very cool,” John Cena said to greet the room full of media and sponsors. But with all eyes on him, Cena’s attention rested fully with the front row of the auditorium at Dave & Buster’s in Times Square.
“This is all about fun, and there’s a front row of kids ready to play some games,” he simply said.
After an 11-year relationship with Make-A-Wish, John Cena came to New York City to be recognized for his next wish, a trip to Raw with 8-year-old Rocco, the 500th wish Cena will grant for the organization. WWE, Make-A-Wish and Dave & Buster’s came together Aug. 21 to celebrate Cena’s upcoming milestone wish — the most granted by a celebrity through Make-A-Wish — and to announce a new multi-year partnership. The event was followed by a reception, which included gift bags from Toys R Us for the children.
Dave & Buster’s Director of Special Events Amy Lang kicked off the event emceed by WWE announcer Renee Young by praising the power of a wish.
“Nothing is more powerful and beautiful than seeing bright smiles and genuine fun being had by our wish guests and families,” she said.
Ten Make-A-Wish children — Rocco, six children who wished to go to SummerSlam, and three of Cena’s former wish children — and their families joined the festivities while sporting special “500” T-shirts with Cena’s signature “Never give up” slogan on the back.
WWE’s Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon welcomed the children and thanked Dave & Buster’s for hosting the event, which included free game cards for the children and their families. McMahon said she feels lucky that WWE helps to make these children’s dreams come true.
“I’ve had the privilege of seeing so many of these smiles and feeling these wonderful hugs from these little arms that squeeze with so much love, so much joy and so much passion,” McMahon said. “We just couldn’t be more proud to have that privilege to give them those smiles.”
WWE has granted more than 6,000 wishes in their 30-year partnership with Make-A-Wish, starting back in the 1980s with Vince and Linda McMahon. WWE’s mission is to put smiles on people’s faces, the CBO said, but one Superstar stands out among the rest.
Before introducing a highlight package of Cena’s first 499 wishes, though, McMahon wanted to thank Cena for taking the opportunity to give back to his fans.
“There’s one person who’s made more people smile than most,” she said. “He is truly authentic and so full of joy and loves meeting you guys and loves being part of all of your extended families, so John Cena, congratulations.”
David Williams, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish, credited the WWE and Make-A-Wish partnership to the commitment of so many people in WWE, from executives to Superstars and Divas like Sheamus and The Bella Twins, who were also in attendance.
Williams said he admires Cena’s commitment to go above and beyond for the children when granting wishes, from his millions of donated frequent flier miles to his creativity at the meet-and-greets.
“While 500 is an incredible number, every single child that he meets — and I’ve seen a lot of them — he just takes the time to make sure that it’s a special experience,” Williams said.
He then presented Cena with a plaque featuring the names of all 500 wish children, including Rocco, who was sporting Cena’s new orange shirt and hat, looking just like the United States Champion.
After Cena welcomed the wish children, who had also gone to the New York Stock Exchange with him for an appearance earlier in the morning, McMahon said the children and their families are heroes. Her and Cena then presented Williams and Make-A-Wish with a $1 million check for a new multi-year partnership.
Honored and thankful to have met so many children through Make-A-Wish, Cena thanked the organization and WWE for affording him those opportunities.
“I’ve seen a lot of families; I’ve seen a lot of kids; and I’ve seen a lot of great things happen,” he said.
Then Cena, the 15-time World Champion and milestone wish granter, headed to the arcade room with 10 of his friends made through Make-A-Wish to play some games.