Four WWE superstars rolled up their sleeves and got to work at a “Day of Service” event benefitting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Houston this week. Mark Henry, Kalisto, Dana Brooke, and Titus O’Neil helped assemble hundreds of bicycles at the Marriott Marquis hotel, which were given to needy children in Houston.
For one of the superstars, giving a poor kid a new bike is payback. Titus O’Neil has an amazing, inspiring story to tell.
“I am the recipient of a lot of charity work. People invested in me when they had nothing to gain from it. When I was a kid, I was always in trouble. People thought I would be in jail or dead by the time I was 16,” says O’Neil, now 42 and a multi-time champion in WWE.
“I was the product of a rape. My mother was raped when she was 11 and had me when she was 12. We were very poor, and I had a bad attitude about life. My mother gave up on me and sent me away. I was sent to the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch before I was a teenager. But it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a life-changing sanctuary. For the first time, I felt safe, I knew I was in a safe place. I felt I could be open about who I was instead of being ashamed of it. As a result, I’m more comfortable sharing with people who I am and where I came from,” O’Neil says.
“During my time at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, I heard the most powerful words ever spoken to me. They were ‘I love you, and I believe in you.’ That’s when I started to believe in myself. Before that, people had told me that they loved me, but they’d turn around and beat me and abuse me.”
O’Neil lived at the Florida Sheriff’s Boys Ranch through high school One day, a bus took the boys to a movie.
“We saw E.T. It was the first time I had ever been to the movies. I thought, ‘Is this how rich kids live? Do they get to go to the moves all the time?’ I never had a birthday party. I didn’t find out how I was conceived until I was 17. My mother once asked me if I wanted to meet my father. I said no. I didn’t want to meet the man who stole my mother’s childhood.”
O’Neill earned a scholarship to the University of Florida, got his degree and played five years of pro ball. He joined WWE in 2009, and his autobiography, There’s No Such Thing As A Bad Kid will be published in August.
He is a full-time performer for WWE, and his finishing maneuver, “Clash of the Titus,” has ended the night for many opponents. But his “mission” is to help people, especially children, who need someone to believe in them – just like he did. He has helped hundreds of kids in the Tampa Bay area land college scholarships. He leads a program where adults read to children after school.
He supports the United Way’s Walking School Bus program, where volunteers walk young kids to school in crime-tough neighborhoods. Every Christmas, he distributes gifts to more than a thousand disadvantaged children. This weekend, he’s at the Kentucky Derby, raising money and awareness about breast and ovarian cancer for the Norton Cancer Institute.
He never had a birthday party. Now he hosts birthday parties for disadvantaged kids across the country.
“I have a good life now, and I’m blessed to be working for a company that supports my work with charities,” he says. “WWE respects that I am a messenger of charity, and each year they become more and more supportive of my charity work. They know that I represent the company’s motto, which is ‘Put smiles on people’s faces.’ I appreciate the resources they’ve given me to help people.”