NEW ORLEANS – WWE Superstars and Divas kicked off WrestleMania Week in the Crescent City by bringing cheer and smiles to children at Ochsner Children's Health Center and Children's Hospital of New Orleans.
Natalya, Kofi Kingston, Zack Ryder, Cody Rhodes and Goldust visited the hospitals' young patients and families, distributed Mattel WWE Slam City toys, made crafts, played video games, posed for photos and signed autographs for the kids.
"It's just amazing,” Kingston said. “As soon as we walked in the room, kids started smiling."
Goldust even offered up his services at the face-painting station at a WWE-themed party for the patients and their families in Children's Hospital of New Orleans.
"It's all about the kids today for us," he said. "Their eyes light up. It warms my heart."
Children's hospital visits have become an annual WrestleMania Week tradition for WWE’s Superstars and Divas. These stops are just one of many community events in New Orleans. According to Natalya, since the majority of the hospitals' children won't be able to attend WrestleMania 30 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this Sunday, it's essential for the Superstars and Divas to visit them.
"We are excited about WrestleMania, but being a WWE Diva or Superstar is so much more than about what we do in the ring,” she explained. “It's giving back. It's putting smiles on their faces. It's knowing that we are making a difference."
At Children's Hospital of New Orleans, one WWE fan, Crystal, was surprised when Cody Rhodes and Kofi Kingston gave her four tickets to WrestleMania 30. The 25-year-old from Patterson, La., couldn't believe she and her family will be attending The Show of Shows. Cody promised Crystal that if she paints her face like his brother Goldust this Sunday, he will look for her from the ring.
"She started crying and we almost started crying," Cody said. "For her and her family, it's a chance for them to be a part of the WWE Universe live in the arena, and nobody deserves that more."
This week, the Superstars and Divas will continue to spread hope and good will around New Orleans as they help build a playground for underprivileged youth with KaBOOM!, host Be a STAR anti-bullying rallies, cheer on Special Olympics athletes at a basketball game and meet 31 children from Make-A-Wish, to name just a few of the planned activities.
"We are not here just for WrestleMania. We are here the whole week giving back to the community," Natalya said.
Cody seconded the sentiment, saying the events in the community are a highlight of being a WWE Superstar.
"This, to me, is the best part," he said. "When I walk away and leave my boots behind, this is what I'll take with me."
Stay tuned to WWECommunity.com and WWE.com for complete coverage of all of your favorite Superstars' and Divas' WrestleMania Week activities in the New Orleans community!