Six years ago, WWE star Stephanie McMahon met a little boy who led her to start fighting for pediatric cancer. She and a colleague recently opened up about the work they are doing.
In January 2014, WWE Chief Brand Officer, Stephanie McMahon met a boy named Connor Michalek, 8, backstage after the Royal Rumble in Pittsburgh. She still recalled the boy because she noticed he was sick.
McMahon revealed how Michalek was bald, had a scar on the back of his neck, and a big lump on the front of his head. At the time, the little boy was at the Royal Rumble to watch his favorite wrestling stars.
Stephanie McMahon at the Cannes Lions on June 23, 2016, in France | Photo: Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images
The brand officer discovered that the boy had medulloblastoma. The condition is a tumor that affects the spinal cord or brain Michalek didn't have long to live because it was growing fast.
While speaking to “People” magazine, McMahon confessed how she couldn’t believe what she found out. She recalled looking at the boy, who was shadowboxing, and thought to herself the doctors must have gotten the diagnosis wrong.
The wrestling star ended up sharing a hug with Michalek and recalled how it was one of the best ones she’d ever had. When she got home, she spoke to her husband, Paul "Triple H" Levesque, about how they could assist the little boy.
Some fans claimed Roman Reigns lied and faked his diagnosis when he returned on stage.
Levesque is WWE's Executive Vice President of Global Talent Strategy and Development. Not long after, the sickly boy was invited to WrestleMania 30 where he had a front-row seat.
After the Mercedes-Benz Superdome match, wrestler Daniel Bryan gave Michalek a ring and thanked the boy for being an inspiration. The interaction was witnessed by the thousands of spectators who were in attendance.
Sadly, the little boy passed on three weeks later. Not long afterward, McMahon and her husband founded Connor's Cure, a fund that supported pediatric brain and spinal cord cancer research.
MCMAHON’S FUND FOR CANCER
WWE’s chief brand officer created the fund after discovering that the government only used 4% of its money for childhood cancer research. This month, WWE held the Superstar Challenge where they encouraged fans to donate and managed to raise more than $13,000.
Wrestlers also took part by spending some time remotely with young cancer patients around the country amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The current WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns, is also taking part.
Reigns can relate to the children as in his early 20s he was diagnosed with leukemia. Just when he thought he’d beaten the disease, the star was re-diagnosed again two years ago.
The star credited his family and friend’s faith for him beating the cancer. Due to his own experience, he feels it’s important for the young fans to get his support; confessing:
"I really just try to stress that we're all in this together, that they're not alone.”
The wrestler acknowledged how sometimes the children could feel like they were alone. Especially amid COVID-19 when hospital visits are very limited.
Reigns hoped that sharing his story would help the children to see someone who was in a similar situation who managed to beat his diagnosis. The star also works with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
MONIES RAISED BY CONNOR’S CURE
Connor's Cure has raised more than $3.5 million since it was founded. The money was raised with assistance from the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation and the V Foundation.
McMahon admires Reigns for using his celebrity status to give back to those who are battling cancer. He liaises with WWE’s charity schemes and makes efforts to raise awareness about the disease.
REIGNS IN REMISSION
Last February, Reigns revealed that he was in remission after being off television for four months. He’s since returned to wrestling after taking a break to deal with his diagnosis.
Some fans claimed the star lied and faked his diagnosis when he returned on stage. However, the wrestler was defended by the Leukaemia Care UK, a national blood cancer support charity.