It’s not every day you watch a man with the swagger of Triple H choke up with such emotion that he fights for words. Standing off to the side at the Empire State Building lighting for Raw’s 25th Anniversary, I watched him do just that. Triple H caught the crowd assembled by surprise, too, when he spoke about a child he met 10 years ago. This young man was described as verbally unresponsive. Triple H contained his deep emotion with that signature smirk and laugh, reporting that he had the opportunity to recently catch up with this child and his family. The same family who couldn’t get their child to talk now endured a different problem – they couldn’t get him to stop talking!
Such is the power of WWE’s partnership with Make-A-Wish. There are hundreds of similar stories of our Superstars imbuing wish kids with unexpected superpowers. Stephanie McMahon beautifully encapsulates our call to arms: “It is our mission at WWE to put smiles on people’s faces.” I can report “mission accomplished” from my unique vantage point at every wish event I’ve been privileged to attend.
If there was a bigger word for “smile,” I would employ it to describe the pure delight wish kids experience in their moment of overwhelming surprise. As exemplified by Triple H’s story, our Superstars are powerfully affected as well.
For more than 30 years, WWE has forged an ever-growing and expanding relationship with Make-A-Wish – granting more wishes than any other sports property! Pause to consider that fact for a moment. WWE has granted more than 6,000 wishes – an enormous number that speaks to WWE’s commitment. Granting wishes is more than something nice to do; WWE recognizes that wishes help build the physical and emotional strength that children need to fight critical illnesses.
Ahead of Raw’s 25th Anniversary, I was anxiously anticipating the granting of one young man’s wish to be a part of Raw 25! Never to produce anything less than the ultimate experience, WWE, in coordination with the Empire State Building and Make-A-Wish, brought Abel to help light the building red in honor of Raw’s 25th Anniversary. As master of ceremonies, 6-year-old Abel was charged with flipping the switch, and let me tell you, he had command! Privileged to sit with Abel and his family before the busy day began, I learned more about this incredible young man. When I asked Abel’s favorite Superstar, his response caused tears to well in my own eyes – who’d have guessed a 6-year-old would say “Ultimate Warrior.” I looked at his dad with a smile to tell him he needn’t be polite, but that sweet father shook his head with a grin and said, “Abel likes the legends; Ultimate Warrior is his favorite, was mine too ...”
Abel was so impressed with the fact I’d shared a life with his idol, he and I became fast, easy pals. Atop the Empire State Building, we looked above the clouds at a breathtaking display and took in the view. We played peek-a-boo with the viewfinders and laughed. We found coiled metal hand railings we dubbed ropes and shook them in remembrance, homage and perhaps prayer that we might feel the power from an ultimate angel above to help Abel pull from every available resource to beat his illness. There was a quiet intelligence I observed in Abel’s little boy body. He’s a kid, yes, but he’s a Warrior, too. Abel is battling, each day, an opponent he intends to slay.
So, too, are the wish kids who were awaiting our Superstars at our next venue, Hard Rock Cafe! The Hardy Boyz, Sasha Banks, Finn Bálor, Roman Reigns, Triple H, John Cena and The Undertaker were prepared to grant wishes for our nine unsuspecting children alongside their families. There were two wish kids from years past, too. These young men came to share stories of gaining strength from Superstars. Cena’s “Never Give Up” mantra delivered hope and a battle cry for one wish alum in attendance. I would bet, being the most requested celebrity wish, Cena has sparked such an attitude in hundreds of his wish kids. Yes, I said hundreds. Cena has granted more than 550 wishes!
I was first made aware of Cena’s devotion to Make-A-Wish when my husband delivered his WWE Hall of Fame speech in New Orleans. Warrior highlighted John’s devotion to service, the respect he had for John and the gift he had selflessly given by imbuing kids with critical illnesses with something Ultimate Warrior always valued above all else: belief.
At the tables of Hard Rock Cafe in Manhattan, Superstars were seated alongside their wish kids and fully engaged. The Hardy Boyz’s enthusiasm was effervescent in meeting my companion, Christopher. They were game for anything, including a FaceTime conversation with Christopher’s awestruck cousin. I took photos of The Hardys hoisting Christopher onto their shoulders. They autographed Hardy Boyz merchandise with such care and consideration, alternately holding for the other to sign. The moment of excitement I’ll never delete from memory was Christopher putting on the beaded necklace Jeff is known to don, and Jeff telling him to put the replica away. With quick hands, Jeff unhooked his own choker and placed it around the neck of his wish kid. I grabbed the camera to feign photography so not to let a moment of awe be ruined by my mush.
There are billions of stars in the universe, and in that moment, I was privileged to watch the embodiment of true supernova stardom, and one heck of a truly super human being.
Each family present in Manhattan, guests of the Hard Rock Cafe – who had generously donated our event space -- raved about the experience. Standing on the floor watching every wish kid next to their Superstar was pure bliss. As a mother, I scanned the faces of moms and dads; their eyes fixed entirely on their children. A snapshot of that moment would reveal parents who weren’t looking at a child who was sick. In this moment, moms and dads were cheering their victorious champions!
Standing on stage with our great Superstars and nine wish kids in Manhattan was WWE’s greatest champion of wish granting, Sue Aitchison. Sue has orchestrated wishes for more than 30 years and been the facilitator of hope for so many children around the world. WWE donated $10,000 to Make-A-Wish in Sue’s honor, a surprise to the longtime WWE employee. Perhaps the kids standing alongside her will never know of all she does to help grant wishes, but credit is never Sue’s aim. Still, all of us at WWE were thrilled to watch her cheered for the tireless work she does in partnership with Make-A-Wish.
I believe in wishes granted. I believe in Superstars who are worthy of being a child’s wish. I believe in every wish kid’s spirit and indomitable inner fortitude to never give up, to believe and to keep making wishes ... ALWAYS!!!