John Cena has been in countless WWE main events and won many championships, but perhaps more impressive is the way he gives back to his fans.
The leader of the CeNation became the first wish granter in the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s 35-year history to reach 500 wishes. To celebrate the milestone, the nonprofit organization and WWE hosted a special presentation and event at Dave & Buster’s in Times Square on Friday, Aug. 21 as part of WWE SummerSlam Weekend.
The gaming and restaurant chain has been a partner of Make-A-Wish for years. A number of wish kids and families whom Cena and WWE have impacted attended a party filled with food, games and the chance to meet superstars and divas. The Bella Twins, Renee Young, Sheamus, Stephanie McMahon, Amy Dumas (Lita) and the four finalists of “Tough Enough” also participated in the festivities.
Before the fun started, a presentation was made to honor Cena. Make-A-Wish CEO David Williams presented the popular performer with a plaque with the 500 names of children he has granted wishes. McMahon, WWE’s chief brand officer, added to the momentous occasion by presenting Make-A-Wish with a check for $1-million.
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Cena is dedicated to bringing smiles to the young faces of those who request him. Victoria Santillo can attest to this with what he has done for her son, Nicholas. The 10-year-old was surprised on the “Today Show” in 2013 for World Wish Day when his hero greeted him.
“I got to hold the WWE gold,” Nicholas said, now more than two years later. “He sat next to me. He said he flew in from Poland just to see me. It made me feel happy.”
This wasn’t the last time the two would interact. The family traveled to Columbus, Ohio for “Monday Night Raw.” They went backstage and sat front row. Nicholas likes Cena because he is strong and never gives up. The same could be said for the brave youngster himself. His WWE personality is “Nick the Stitch.” It was bestowed upon him by his father, Mark, after enduring three open-heart surgeries.
Santillo recalls a particular SmackDown in Philadelphia where Cena walked through the crowd to where Nicholas was seated and gave him a big hug and rally towel. The memento was something that gave the big fan strength during a stay in the hospital. For Santillo, Cena doesn’t grant wishes, but actually builds bonds.
“He does go above and beyond,” she said. “I love the fact that he is so genuine and real. He cares about the kids. He is there for the kids. He is not there for us adults. He is there to make them happy and feel special. They get to meet him. I just love him and think he is a great guy.”
Cena personally donates more than 6-million airline miles for wishes involving travel, hosted parties for wish kids at WrestleMania and served as a Wish Ambassador at speaking engagements. Cena is also a recipient of the Chris Greicius Celebrity Award, which Make-A-Wish awarded him in 2009. In 2012, he received an award to mark the milestone of his 300th wish, something no other celebrity or athlete has achieved.
Cena will achieve the landmark 500th wish total when he spends time with Rocco -- an 8-year-old from Queens, N.Y., battling leukemia -- at Monday Night Raw on Aug. 24 from the Barclays Center.
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