All too often the news is filled with stories of athletes behaving badly. From fights, to car crashes, to squandering their millions, media outlets are more than willing to eat up a scandal when a young superstar is involved. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see an athlete that gives back to the community.
There’s only a handful of stars that reinvest their fortunes into good, humanitarian causes, names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams, or LeBron James. But no charitable conversation would be complete without talking about WWE superstar John Cena as well.
John Cena’s wrestling career
Cena’s name is right up there with some of the most famous wrestlers of all time, names like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Hulk Hogan. Depending on whom you ask, he might even be the single most recognizable professional wrestler in the world.
Growing up in West Newbury, Massachusetts, Cena was a consummate athlete. He attended college at Springfield where he played football for the Golden Eagles. He was a gifted center and was named a NCAA Division III All-American. Armed with a degree in physiology and body movement, a career in athletics was his calling.
After college Cena launched his career as a bodybuilder. Determined to be successful, he traveled westward where he hooked up with the Ultimate Pro Wrestling University.
It wasn’t long before his natural talent, rock-like physique, and charisma were propelling him toward superstardom with the WWF. In 2000, he joined the WWF, albeit as a different character than fans know him today.
In the early days of his career, he adopted a robotic alter ego known as “The Prototype” and a rap persona known as “The Doctor of Thugonomics.” Over time, however, Cena grew into an everyguy/ superhero role that factored greatly into his mass appeal.
Over the next four years, Cena worked hard, wrestling in numerous non-televised WWF matches until he finally worked his way up to the main card in 2004. Since his debut, Cena has won the world championship an astonishing 16 times, in addition to earning the American belt five times.
Giving back to his fans
All of John Cena’s success inside the ring has made him one of the richest professional wrestlers in the world. Even though Cena is estimated to be worth approximately $60 million, the wrestler and actor chooses to reinvest a substantial portion of his wealth and time back into the community and his fans.
Cena started out small, offering to pay for veterans and first responders’ groceries at the store, but as his fame and fortune grew, so did his contributions.
Cena is a well-known advocate for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization which enlists artists, athletes, and entertainers to help grant the wishes, and boost the spirits, of severely-ill children battling serious diseases like cancer. To date, Cena has granted more wishes than any other program participant, with a total numbering over 600.
Recently, Cena has expanded his philanthropic efforts by donating $500,000 to the first responders fighting last year’s wildfires in California, and by involving himself with FitOps.
FitOps is an organization helping to fight high rates of suicide amongst veterans by teaching them how to be personal trainers. Cena recently launched a major fundraising drive for the organization, pledging to match every donation they take in dollar-for-dollar, up to $1 million.
Solid athlete, solid person
For some athletes, involvement in a charitable organization is less about helping others and more about counteracting any negativity in their perceived brand. But with John Cena, it’s not an act.
In a professional career that has spanned two complete decades, he has never once been involved in a personal scandal and has managed to maintain his nice guy status without even a hint of tarnish. As for his charitable contributions, in Cena’s world it’s not about personal gain, branding, or a tax write off. He does it because it’s the right thing to do.