The narrator you hear during the SportsCenter “My Wish” series is ESPN essayist and reporter Chris Connelly.
Since the airing of the first “My Wish” segment, in 2006, Connelly has served as host of the heart-warming program. Before heading to Bristol, Conn., to view the raw footage of each segment with production staff, Connelly sat with ESPN Front Row during the ESPYS last week.
What were your initial feelings when you were asked to host the series seven years ago?
I was first very honored and then I didn’t know what to expect. I think I expected it might be really depressing, that I might be meeting families and there would be a lot of bad news and very little to be optimistic about. That turned out to not be the case at all. Going into these families’ homes, we’ve found amazing stories of resourcefulness, love, dedication and caring. These kids are just remarkably resilient and strong and funny, with great perspective on what they have gone through. So it turned out to be moving and inspiring in a way that I didn’t necessarily anticipate.
What were your expectations then and have they changed over the years?
I certainly think in the beginning of “My Wish,” we hoped first off that we would do something really special for these children, and we hoped the families would enjoy what we were doing. We didn’t expect to get the enormous response from viewers that we did. And it’s been really gratifying to see what a great job athletes do in connecting with the young people from Make A Wish. I feel like athletes bond with these kids and have a special connection. They recognize in these kids the same kind of courage and sense of sacrifice they admire in their teammates. I love seeing the connection take shape between the athlete and the child.
With up to 41 wishes in the series thus far, does any particular wish stand out to you?
Every wish is special, because every child is different and every family is different and the things each child and each family have to go through are always different. Every challenge that a child has to meet, every way that a parent has to advocate for his or her child is special and different and moving. There have been a lot of great moments over the years involving athletes going out of their way to do something special for these children, to make a special day for these children and that’s what we like to see.