Wrestling for a Cause
Posted: Aug 8th 2017 By: Max Brian, hotsr.com
A charitable wrestling event will make its way into the Spa City next month.
Wrestle Raise III, an event put on by Championship Wrestling of Arkansas, aims to draw wrestling fans from across the region to Hall D of the Hot Springs Convention Center on Sept. 16. This year's event, which gives 100 percent of its net profit to a disadvantaged individual or family each year, will be the first one held in Hot Springs.
Matt Riviera, one of the featured wrestlers in the event, said that he and other CWA wrestlers created Wrestle Raise to bring live wrestling to their home state and raise money for people in need. The first Wrestle Raise event benefitted a girl with leukemia; the second, a family that had lost their house in a fire.
"It's a win-win," Riviera said. "We get to do what we love to do and entertain people, and raise money for someone who truly needs it."
Wrestle Raise III will benefit Abby McKenzie, a 10-year-old girl from East End with a rare PI3K pathway disease. The event will feature a headlining match between Tim Storm and Jerry "The King" Lawler, as well as matches between CWA wrestlers such as Riviera and Chavo Guerrero Jr.
The initial two Wrestle Raise events were held in the Maumelle Event Center in North Little Rock. Riviera said that the move to Hot Springs was a strategic one.
"We like to take these shows to destination cities," he said. "We have fans that usually attend these things from out of state. Some fans will drive six or seven hours. Well, they can bring their family and make this a complete day of entertainment. They can go do things in the city during the day -- Magic Springs, so forth -- and then they can come to our event at night."
Riviera described the Wrestle Raise events as entertainment that is "fun for the entire family," and serves to promote this concept by not serving alcohol. He also said that Wrestle Raise has grown in popularity due to where their net profits go.
"The fans feel like they're already part of the cause because every ticket that is purchased goes toward raising that money," he said.
Riviera said that he and his fellow wrestlers decided to raise money for McKenzie after a woman approached him and told him about the possibility of supporting her through the event.
"She said, 'Do you guys have someone for your next event, for the funds to go to?' I said, 'No, ma'am, we don't.' She said, 'Well, I know a young lady from East End, Ark., that I think would be perfect,'" Riviera said. "The rest is history."
McKenzie's mother, Michelle, said that her daughter is one of only 36 people in the world with her kind of PI3K pathway disease. She said that the disease keeps her daughter's immune system from producing antibodies or remembering how to fight viruses. She said her lymph nodes grow rapidly under certain conditions, leading to blockage of her respiratory airways.
Because of her disease, Abby McKenzie has had 30 surgeries and is currently unable to attend school.
Michelle McKenzie said that CWA's interest in putting on the event was "completely humbling."
"It was a surprise, to say the least," she said.
Riviera describes Abby McKenzie as a bright girl with a quick wit. He was enthusiastic about raising money for her.
"This little girl has more charisma than most wrestlers I know," he said.
Michelle McKenzie hopes that the event helps acknowledge her daughter and children like her, who have what she called an "invisible illness." She also hopes that her daughter can enjoy the event, as she is unable to attend many like it.
"I hope she just has fun," Michelle McKenzie said. "She doesn't get to go out a whole lot, she doesn't get to meet a lot of people, especially in crowded places, because we take a chance with her getting sick."
Riviera hopes that many others will enjoy Wrestle Raise III, as well. He said that the event will bring excitement not experienced outside of a live setting.
"There's a lot of things nowadays that could keep you at the house, but I assure you that if you leave your home and you come out and you buy this ticket, you will not regret it," he said.
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