Courtesy of Times Leader (PA)
In this corner - some happy kids
WWE star Chris Jericho is a big hit in his visit to John Heinz rehabilitation clinic.
By JON FOX
WILKES-BARRE TWP. - Arrows marked the route: WWE wrestlers this way.
It wasn't at Wachovia Arena. That was a short hop away across Mundy Street.
This venue was a bit smaller, a dining room at the Allied Services John Heinz Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine.
Children and their parents lined the center's hallway, and at the end of the arrows, printed on paper and taped to the walls, expectant fans sat waiting for an up-close glimpse of Chris Jericho.
The World Wrestling Entertainment star with the blond locks was slated to stop by for about an hour before climbing in the ring at the arena.
Rodney Shupe was waiting with his 4-year-old son, Colby. Colby has been coming to the center for about a month since doctors discovered he has a condition blocking blood flow to the left ball joint in his hip.
"He wants to put one of them in a cross-face chicken wing," Shupe said of his son. When he walked in and saw the dining room, Colby asked, "Where do we wrestle," his father said.
But there wasn't going to be any wrestling, just some snapshots, some autographs and a room full of smiling children.
And some adults. There were certainly some closet wrestling fans in the crowd, Shupe included. "I keep up with everything and keep them abreast," the 40-year-old said pointing to his other sons, Dylan, 9, and Tyler, 10.
Tommy Stanitis, 9, was clutching a glossy photograph of Jericho, and when the man himself walked though the doors, Stanitis began calling "Chris" in a tentative voice. Stanitis would later have his photograph signed and pose for a picture with the wrestler.
Tommy Walsh, a 14-year-old who received occupational, speech and physical therapy at the center for five years, was one of the first to sit down next to the star. He was still holding a half-developed Polaroid.
"He's shaking," Rose Walsh said, looking at her son's tremulous hand. "That's so cool." The brush with wrestling super-stardom had set her son atwitter.
She had known about the planned visit for some time but kept it hush-hush. "I knew way before, but I didn't tell them," she said standing next to her son and his best friend. "New Year's after midnight I told them to give them a treat."
Cathy Bretz had brought her 12-year-old daughter Caitlyn to see the man whose voice she has come to recognize. Caitlyn has cerebral palsy and is vision-impaired. She can't see the television but knows Jericho nevertheless.
"She knows his voice and she really responds when he starts talking," Bretz said of her daughter.
Mom's a bit of a Jericho fan herself. "He's just such a personable man," she said.
Perhaps the most effusive was Emily Socha. The 17-year-old from Forest City has been undergoing rehabilitation at the center since she suffered a head injury in a Dec. 12 car accident.
She's a fan like only a teenage girl can be.
"Oh my god," she said clutching her own photo of the wrestler. "I can't believe it. I love him to death. I get discharged on Friday, so he just made my time here the best."