In honor of Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, WWE Ambassador Dana Warrior is highlighting members of the WWE Universe who have turned awareness into action by hosting events, bringing together communities, inspiring friends, family members and even strangers to help in the fight against pediatric cancer to ensure that one day, no family or child will have to suffer like Connor’s did. That’s the vision we share, and with the help and commitment of the WWE Universe, one day, we will make it a reality. Every dollar counts. Every moment counts in the fight against pediatric cancer.
This month, WWE will shine the spotlight on individuals who have joined the fight against pediatric cancer. This week, WWECommunity.com would like to introduce the WWE Universe to Ashontay Owens, current U.S. Air Force member and one of the organizers of the annual Connor’s Cure WrestleMania Tailgate.
DANA WARRIOR: First of all, Ashontay, on behalf of me and my family, I want to thank you for your service. I’d also like to thank you for the service to your community – you are a hero to me and I want you to know that. I know a little about you, but can you tell the WWE Universe about yourself?
ASHONTAY OWENS: I am active duty Air Force as a firefighter, and I’ve been in the Air Force for about 16-and-a-half years. My wife and I were high school sweethearts and have been together for more than 17 years. We have two boys together. I’ve been all over the world, including five deployments, eight different military bases, two tours, so it’s nice to be back stateside.
DANA: That’s incredible. We are so privileged to have people like you defending our country and our freedom. With all of your commitments, have you always been a WWE fan?
ASHONTAY: Goodness, yes. I’ve been to the last eight WrestleManias, the last five Royal Rumbles and a bunch of other PPVs here and there. I’ve even flown from overseas assignments to attend WrestleMania. I always try to schedule it!
This all started because I met my friends, Brandon and Gary, on Facebook, and we decided to do a small little tailgate to bring together fans, and it turned into this big fundraiser for Connor’s Cure. We’re all from different backgrounds, and WWE is definitely how we all came together to become best friends.
DANA: When did you first hear about Connor’s Cure?
ASHONTAY: At WrestleMania 30, I saw the story about Connor, and how Daniel Bryan was his hero, and how he still had his fighting spirit and personality, even though he was so sick. I didn’t really know what it was about, I knew WWE had different types of charities they supported, but I didn’t know how in-depth the relationship was with Connor. The next thing you know, I started to hear more about it around WrestleMania 31 when the Warrior Award was announced.
At WrestleMania 32, along with my friends Brandon and Gary, we started the tailgate to raise money for Connor’s Cure.
DANA: That is incredibly inspiring, and it looks like it has really grown! Can you tell the WWE Universe about the tailgate?
ASHONTAY: I actually met Brandon through Facebook. I had been to quite a few WrestleManias and had posted videos and photos online, which is how Brandon found me. It was Brandon’s first WrestleMania, and he bought a ticket for him and his wife to go, and to get excited for the event, Brandon started a WrestleMania 32 hangout group and invited me to be an admin of the site. From there, we invited the group members to join us at a tailgate. At the time, we had about 300 members. About a week before, I had the idea to ask members to donate $5 to Connor’s Cure at the tailgate. We actually raised about $1,600 the first year, and we covered all of the expenses around the event.
We wanted to continue momentum leading up to WrestleMania 33, and next thing you know, we went from 300 members to 1,400 members, and the donation raised $5,000!
We even reached out to local businesses in Orlando for support, and the response was tremendous. Local retailers donated the tents, grills, banners – and we knew we’re on to something. We even had a single donation of $800!
DANA: Wow, that is amazing! Do you have plans for a third tailgate at WrestleMania 34?
ASHONTAY: My goal is to donate twice as much as we did this year – so the goal is more than $10,000! We’ve had great support from the New Age Insiders podcast, and they have agreed to run a commercial two to three weeks before WrestleMania to promote the tailgate. We’re going to see if we can create T-shirts to sell to raise money for Connor’s Cure. We’re also going to start reaching out to local businesses in January to see if they can donate auction items. My friend even bought NXT and Raw tickets that we raffled off to raise money and entice more people to bid.
It’s just us three taking care of everything, and myself and Brandon are active duty military. Our third friend Gary is a small business owner, and we were able to pull it all together.
DANA: That was amazing. Thank you so much for creating this incredible tailgate for Connor’s Cure, and I’m so happy I got to spend time with you this morning.
ASHONTAY: Thank you! We’re looking forward to making the WrestleMania 34 tailgate bigger and better than ever before!
Follow the Tailgaters on Twitter @WM34Tailgate.