During a celebration for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of New Jersey, Dwayne Johnson spoke about his father, wrestling legend Rocky Johnson, who was one of the first wish-granters of the chapter some 35 years ago.
The New Jersey chapter of the foundation commemorated their 35th anniversary during a gala on Thursday night, and Johnson sent over a video message from Hawaii to help them mark the occasion.
“Make-A-Wish means something,” Johnson, 46, told the audience. “It’s something very meaningful to me and I hold very, very close to my heart.”
Since his time in the WWE, Johnson has been a major part of the foundation efforts to bring a smile to children with life-threatening medical conditions. He “cheated on his diet” with some Rice Krispies treats for a 13-year-old boy who wanted to share some with him, passed out personalized video game systems to three Make-A-Wisher children for Christmas, and sang to a young boy and girl (even though the boy painfully ignored him!).
But while Johnson has been a long time wish-granter, what many people might not know is that working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation runs through Johnson’s blood.
His father, former WWE tag-team champion, Rocky Johnson, now 73, became one of the first wish-granters of the New Jersey chapter when he visited a 10-year-old boy named Bobby Macaluso, who had Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“I remember my Dad telling me and Mom, ‘There’s a little boy, and he wants to meet me, and he’s really challenged right now, and he’s fighting hard, and his one wish is to meet me,’ and I was blown away,” Johnson told the audience at the gala of his father’s visit to Bobby in 1983. “And I remember meeting Bobby and his family, and my Dad was holding him, and it was a very special moment and time in our lives.”
Johnson said meeting Bobby — who was about the same age as him at the time — was a significant moment in his young life.
“It moved me,” he said. “It changed my life even then as an 11-year-old.”
Johnson took to Instagram on Thursday night to congratulate the foundation and to talk about his father meeting Bobby more than three decades ago.
“My Dad told Bobby, ‘Just think of yourself as a champ, and you’ll be a champ’… Amen,” Johnson wrote. “What a special moment.”
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Johnson also posted a newspaper clipping from The Daily Journal, uncovered by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, that showed his mother and father — who was dressed in a relaxed red button-down shirt and trucker hat — hanging with Bobby and his family during their hour-and-a-half visit. The headline of the article reads, in part, “One Champ Meets Another Champ.”
“I remember my family feeling incredibly lucky and grateful to be there and meet Bobby and his family and watch my pops make Bobby’s day,” Johnson continued. “Congratulations again New Jersey.”
Bobby passed away from complications from Lou Gehrig’s disease almost two decades after meeting with Rocky.
Johnson — who is starring in the upcoming film, Skyscraper — said being a wish-granter has been one of the best things of his career.
“I got a pretty cool job and I’m a real lucky guy. I’ve got beautiful kids and I’ve got some people who love me in my life and who I lean on for support,” he told the audience. “But the best part of my job, the best part of my job is granting wishes. It’s the best part of my job and it’s the best part about what I do.”