WWE, Make-A-Wish, & Fanatics: The Power of Collaboration For A Good Cause (Exclusive)

Make-A-Wish CEO Leslie Motter & Fanatics' Orlando Ashford spoke to MMA Knockout on the "natural" partnership with WWE.
Rhea Ripley grants her first Make-A-Wish.
Rhea Ripley grants her first Make-A-Wish. / (via WWE)

Make-A-Wish continues to make great strides in making the dream of kids in need come true, and a strong collaborative effort with WWE and Fanatics is leading the charge.

For over 40 years, WWE and Make-A-Wish have partnered to create countless memorable moments with children who needed something to lift them up during trying times. Make-A-Wish CEO Leslie Motter knows all too well of the successful and longstanding partnership with WWE, but she's shooting for the stars.


MMA Knockout recently spoke to both Leslie Motter and Fanatics Chief People Officer Orlando Ashford ahead of their team effort in helping surprise Make-A-Wish kids on the first day of WWE World inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Make-A-Wish.jpg / (via Fanatics)

"We actually have 19 wish kids and their families who traveled all across the country to be here for what's gonna be an amazing few days," Motter said. "So, they have the opportunity to start today at WWE World. They had the wonderful experience of shopping courtesy of Fanatics. A $250 gift card, they're getting to get all their greatest merch. Then we have just so many surprises lined up for 'em, including the SmackDown Friday night, and WrestleMania 40 on Saturday and Sunday as well. They are already overjoyed, and these families deserve that."

When it comes to the collaborative efforts of WWE, Make-A-Wish, and Fanatics, Ashford believes the partnership just makes too much sense for it not to work.

"It's just natural," Ashford said. "Fanatics is all about forwarding sports and enhancing the fan experience. So, that's what we do. With Make-A-Wish, and in this specific case WWE, bringing those powers together to elevate the fandom that these young kids have for wrestling. It just was natural. This is what we do."

Motter noted that surprising the aforementioned 19 children for WrestleMania week had been planned for "many, many months." She said that it would be a "fabulous few days for these families."

Ashford noted that Fanatics stepped into the fold mere months ago, but the positive impact has already been made.

Make-A-Wish 2.jpg
Make-A-Wish 2.jpg / (via Fanatics)

"We started this partnership officially in October, and in that timeframe we've been able to grant moving towards 150 wishes," Ashford said. "One of the things that's interesting, because we are able to partner with some of the most amazing athletes in the world, pick the sport, and what they all say in common, while they are some of the most physically trained athletes they blow energy watching these kids navigate through the challenges they have. To Leslie's point, the athletes and the participants get as much from the kids, probably more so than the kids get from them."

John Cena has long been viewed as the gold standard when it comes to granting wishes. His efforts are never lost on Motter, who said that pretty much everyone in WWE has stepped up to the plate as well.

"Honestly, I don't know that there's WWE talent that is not perfect for this," Motter said. "Everyone I speak to, from John Cena to Dwayne Johnson to Cody Rhodes, every person that is involved with WWE tells me this is just as beneficial, if not more, for them than it is for the children. They get so much out of these interactions, and they're so overjoyed to be a part of this. The fact that a child that can wish for anyone, to meet anyone, to go anywhere and have anything and they wish either to meet a specific superstar or to come to an amazing event like WrestleMania 40 it really means something to them, and they're personally touched. So, it's just fantastic. I mean, these are idols for our kids. They give them a sense of fun and joy and entertainment, and they're uplifting in a time that they need it the most, much like a wish."

As far as whether or not anyone on the WWE roster stands out as much as Cena has with Make-A-Wish, Motter said it truly has been a team effort and the on-air talent is always onboard.

"This is a tough one, I mean John still has the record for most wishes granted. He is phenomenal and kids are still very much looking forward to meeting him and he's very much in the game. I got the opportunity to speak with him last year. He's so excited about holding that record as something he holds near and dear to his heart. He's so excited to interact with the wish kids. And then, you mentioned hearing Cody last week. You probably heard him say that that's really the aspiration for everyone is that type of record."

Orlando Ashford noted that it further demonstrates "the power of collaboration."

Motter has a lofty goal for Make-A-Wish, but it's one that she is determined to see through. She wants to reach the elusive 1 million number for total WishMakers, and she explained why that number is so important.

"Thank you so much for asking, so April is World Wish Month and we are proud to have launched that this year," Motter said. "It's actually the anniversary of our very first wish 44 years ago, it was April 29th, 1980. A very, very special day for all of us, and we decided a day wasn't enough. We needed an entire month for this global movement. For every wish that we grant, we actually have two children waiting for a wish, so it's critical we have more WishMakers.

"Every wish is unique, just like every child is unique."

Make-A-Wish continues seeking WishMakers to fulfill it's goal of one million. You can visit WishMakers.org to help the initiative.

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Fernando Quiles Jr.