Make-A-Wish: How The Rock is Making Dreams Come True
September 15, 2006
Lights glared and cameras rolled in downtown Hollywood Thursday as The Rock unveiled his new movie "Gridiron Gang" with a star-studded premiere. But the big screen tough guy was busy trying to keep a stiff upper lip.
A few miles away from the bright lights of Hollywood, nine kids made a journey they never dreamed could happen, and "Extra" was their escort as they made a wish upon a star.
"There are a lot of kids that traveled a long way to be with me tonight," The Rock said. "We're going to give them a warm Hollywood welcome."
Heather Janey was supposed to be at her first week of college, but thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Thursday night's curriculum for the Hodgkin's survivor was a premiere and a meeting with her hero, The Rock.
"Through my treatment, through my illness, he's been my rock," Janey admitted.
The courage in the survivors was evident, especially in the faces of kids like Sam Vandermause, who has kept his fingers crossed since 2004 when he was first diagnosed with a brain tumor.
"After the first year they said, ‘Sam do you want to change your wish,' and I said, ‘Nope,'" Vandermause recalled. "I just want to thank him for being my hero."
Nicholas Huerta, who had a kidney transplant just 9 months ago, was determined to meet his hero standing up out of his wheelchair.
"I admire what he does," Huerta said. "He's my favorite wrestler, and now, he's my favorite actor."
These are just a few of the children whose bodies betrayed them, but whose spirits have only grown stronger.
Some of these survivors have rehearsed The Rock's famous look, "the people's eyebrow," and others, like Heather, have built homemade shrines in her Boston bedroom. Now Heather plans to tell the actor all the things she's been waiting so long to say.
"When I was too weak and tired to form the mental picture of my 4'11" frame standing up to the evil cancer giants, I focused on you, my hero," she said.
Hollywood's famous Grauman's Chinese Theater was buzzing Thursday when the limo bus arrived, and while the celebrities worked the media line, nine VIPs and their families took it all in.
"Anytime I'm around these kids I get emotional," The Rock admitted. "But look, at the end of the day, these kids are stronger than I could ever imagine being. I'm proud of them. They know that. They know they're sick, and they're very courageous, and I'm proud of them."
"I know all the people from my high school are going to be watching, and they're going to be real jealous," Huerta told us.
But the premiere was just the beginning for the kids. Upstairs at the Highlands Club, The Rock arranged for a one-of-a-kind after party, and when the movie star made his entrance, all of the wishes started becoming reality.
One by one, The Rock sat down with every kid sharing stories and more importantly, asking questions.
"Having a big premiere here, having a big movie play the way it did, all that's great," The Rock said. "But it becomes secondary to seeing those kids' faces, that's what it's all about."