By JOE ECKSTROM
OBSERVER Staff Writer
FORESTVILLE Sometimes all it takes is a coincidence to create a new friendship.
OBSERVER Photo by Joe Eckstrom
WWE star Bill Goldberg is pictured with Amanda Childs, Jonny Skrok, Cameron Mullen, Matt Childs and Cat Skrok.
For 3-year-old, Bradley Bates and his family, that new friendship came in the form of 6'4", 285 pound, former Pro-wrestler Bill Goldberg who appeared at Merritt Estate Winery Saturday to meet with fans.
"I was in Charlotte waiting to board the plane on the way here when I saw Bradley in a wheelchair in front of me," Goldberg said.
"I have a 6-year-old boy at home, so anybody with a heart can feel for the situation this family is in. I inquired, but I didn't want to pry, so a long story short they had entered the contest to have lunch with me here. Well, they didn't win, so I gave them their own lunch to get to spend time with my new buddy," he said.
On Aug. 4, Bradley fell into a fire pit and suffered severe burns on his body. The Bates family has accumulated a large amount of hospital bills as they work through Bradley's recovery.
After the chance meeting, Goldberg has made it a personal goal of his to help the Bates family as much as possible in their time of need.
"If I can send a message out on Twitter and contact guys like Andre Reed and Jim Kelly, guys who are in the area, maybe they can possibly impact a negative situation like this," Goldberg said. "There is a benefit in town and I'm going to try to stop by on my way to the airport, but it is just indicative of a small town to try and make a difference. What does it take on my part to help out, nothing really. In a world where everyone is worried about themselves, we need to sit back, take a deep breath and figure out what is important in life. Kids are our future, so I'm going to do anything I can to help," Goldberg said.
The Bradley Bates benefit will be held today at the Silver Creek Fireman's Club from noon to 5 p.m.
During his time in the area, Goldberg has not only enjoyed meeting new people, but also the scenery Chautauqua County has to offer.
"Any time you are able to go someplace you've never been before, especially in a smaller community it's a pleasure and an honor," Goldberg said as he reminisced of his early wrestling days. "It's kind of like doing a show in the middle of nowhere. When we did non-televised events, we would go to smaller towns and put on shows and it was good for the community."
Fans lined up to wait for the chance to get autographs, take pictures and purchase Goldberg's autobiography, "I'm Next."
"Writing the book was awesome. I have always wanted to write a book," Goldberg said. "My brother went on the road with me for three weeks, which almost killed him. He was able to experience what we went through.
"I didn't want a ghost writer, I wanted to write it myself, and so he and I wrote it together," Goldberg added. "It took us a long period of time to write, but I wanted something that was in my own words and something people could easily read. I think we accomplished that and I think we will come out with another one in the next year or two. It's just a chance for people to see that I'm a normal guy."
For as much success as Goldberg had in the ring, he has almost had as much in his post-wrestling career.
"Life post-wrestling for me is just trying to live out my dream," he said. "It's all about family and I'm just lucky to be me. I'm lucky that things kind of worked out right. The car stuff I really enjoy, coming out to small towns and doing events like this I really enjoy, I can't do enough of it."
Goldberg's resume boasts a number of different positions from contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, acting in movies such as "The Longest Yard" and "Universal Soldier" to hosting shows on the SPEED Channel and the DIY Channel.
"Doing the car stuff, doing TV and doing movies I've been very lucky," Goldberg said. "Most people only get once chance at finding success in their lives, I've had like 10. Pro football I lived a dream and then I got hurt and didn't know what to do. Here comes wrestling, I quit wrestling and then get into movies and then I get into TV and then I get into doing events like this. I couldn't be happier."
Goldberg will be back at Merritt Estate Winery today starting at 12:30 p.m. with his book available to purchase, with the proceeds benefitting Meals on Wheels of Chautauqua County.