In this Monday, June 18, 2012 photo, seven-year old, Jonny Littman, poses with WWE superstar, John Cena, at the 300th Make-A-Wish for Cena in Uniondale, N.Y. It was the 300th wish granted by Cena, making him the most popular celebrity granter in Make-A-Wish history. (AP Photo/John Carucci)
Updated: June 20, 2012 2:10PM
UNIONDALE, NY (AP) — The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants a wish every 38 minutes. For 7-year-old Jonny Littman, it came the other evening when WWE superstar John Cena walked into the room.
The chatty Jonny appeared nervous at first, turning his wheelchair to the wall, but Cena soon eased his nerves. After all, this time was special for Cena too — and for those keeping score.
It was the 300th wish granted by Cena, making him the most popular celebrity granter in Make-A-Wish history. To put it perspective, Michael Jordan has granted around 200 and Kobe Bryant is in the 100-wish range.
“I truly give hats off to Make-A-Wish for keeping statistics,” Cena said. “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,” he said enthusiastically.
But Cena was clearly touched by the latest one.
“I’m just flattered completely that I could be the wish,” he said.
Jonny, from Hop Bottom, Pa., has severe congenital malformation and spina bifida. He spoke to his hero for a few minutes and took some pictures with him.
He even put on his WWE Championship belt. His mother, Ruth, says his surgeons wore it during his last surgery.
After signing T-shirts and WWE merchandise and presenting him with a videogame system, the superstar graciously walked out of the room. Cena prepared for his featured match, and Jonny and his family waited to go into the Nassau Coliseum for a live televised weekly show, “Raw.”
After he left the room, Jonny chanted: “Cena. John Cena. Cena...”
But that was only the first part. On Wednesday morning, the Littman family was on “Good Morning America.” And while on camera, Jonny met his hero again, this time on national television.
Cena is following a WWE tradition of granting wishes. The organization grants about 140 wishes per year between requests to meet WWE Superstars or attend its live shows. The tradition started in the early 1980s with Hulk Hogan being the most requested.
And while these wishes make children with life-threatening medical conditions feel good for the moment, organizers say they also have a lasting effect.
Make-A-Wish CEO David Williams cites cases where terminally ill children clung to life for weeks and sometimes months in anticipation of the wish. Surveys by his organization found that many doctors and nurses felt the wish had a physical benefit to the patient, and most families said a wish strengthened the entire family at a fragile time.
“They said it was a very much needed boost,” Williams said.
The organization has 300,000 volunteers that help carry out the wishes. Corporations, airlines, hotels, and other donors assure that most wish requests are met.
Still, 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.”
As for Cena, “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.”