The boy, Jonny seemed nervous after he turned his wheelchair to the wall, but Cena calmed him down. Cena said of his wish: "I'm just flattered completely that I could be the wish." Johnny is from Hop Bottom, Pennsylvania and has severe congenital malformation and spina bifida. He spoke to Cena for a few minutes and took pictures with him. He even got to wear his replica WWE championship belt for the occasion. His mother, Ruth, says his surgeons wore it during his last surgery. Cena signed T-shirts, WWE merchandise and gave Jonny a videogame system. He prepared for his match on RAW while the family waited to go into the Nassau Coliseum for the show. Jonny chanted: "Cena. John Cena. Cena..."
Cena is now the most popular celebrity granter in Make-A-Wish history. Michael Jordan has granted 200 and Kobe Bryant has granted around 100 or so. Cena said: "I truly give hats off to Make-A-Wish for keeping statistics. They had a nice little celebration for me at 200, and I humbly said we should do it at 1,000. We're just getting started."
Cena is just one of several WWE stars to grant wishes. WWE grants about 140 wishes per year, which began in the 1980s when Hulk Hogan was the most requested. Organizers say the wishes actually help the patients live a little longer in addition to feeling good for the moment.
Make-A-Wish CEO David Williams said there were instances where terminally ill children fought hard to keep alive for weeks or months while waiting for the wish. He says doctors and nurses felt the wish had a physical benefit to the patient and most families credit the wish with helping them all at the time. Williams added: "They said it was a very much needed boost."
300,000 volunteers help carry out the wishes, including corporations, airlines, hotels, and other donors. Williams said: "Every year in the U.S., 27,000 are diagnosed with a life threatening illness, and the organization serves about 14,000. For every family that we're helping, there's a child that we are not."
Cena added: "I know this is the entertainment business and there will come a time when I'm not requested, but I'll still be donating my time and money, I love what they do."