CORRECTION: A previous version of this story made an error in the first sentence. Kristen Gilbert was 18 weeks pregnant with her son when he was diagnosed.
Nathan Gilbert, a 6-year-old Prosper resident, was diagnosed with spina bifida when his mother, Kristen Gilbert, was only 18 weeks pregnant with him. His family is bringing attention to the need for a wheelchair-accessible playground in the Prosper area. Although he has yet to see that wish fulfilled, American professional wrestler John Cena was able to team up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to make another dream come true.
“Originally I thought that Make-A-Wish was only for terminal cases,” Kristen Gilbert said. “But it's actually more about kids who have been through experiences that could be life threatening. We knew how much he was into wrestling and John Cena, so we nominated him and sent in documentation of surgeries and conditions. Make-A-Wish came to our house about two years ago.”
Gilbert explained that if Nathan's wish hadn't involved a celebrity it wouldn't have taken that long. Thankfully, they were happy to wait because it meant that Nathan would be older and the event might be more memorable for him. She went on to describe the experience in detail.
“They asked if we could make a July 4 trip to Phoenix,” Gilbert explained. “That's actually where Nathan's grandparents live, so that was great. Make-A-Wish puts your family in a nice resort and flies you out the day before. Then they send a representative to pick you up and take you to the event.”
She said that they had no idea what to expect. A guide from WWE took them backstage where they ran into several celebrities who were happy to take pictures with them. Then they experienced a few minutes with John Cena himself.
“Nathan was super excited,” she continued. “The first thing Nathan asked him to do was, 'Can you do 20 pushups?' They did pushups together and it was awesome. They talked for a little bit and he gave him lots of goodies before they took us to our front row seats. It was a long day, but it was a lot of fun.”
John Cena is inspirational for Nathan because he considers him an “All-American good guy.” The Gilbert family said they feel very blessed to have had such a large wish granted for Nathan. Now, they turn their attention back to Nathan's local wish, to have a wheelchair accessible playground at Folsom Elementary.
“Every day Nathan asks if we have raised enough money yet,” Gilbert said.
The family and community have raised more than $25,000 and are waiting for further instructions from the school district. The Gilberts said they are looking forward to the day that Nathan can play with his friends during recess at school.