It’s been two years since John Phillips’s heartbroken face became an internet sensation – but rather than being ashamed of his online notoriety, the compassionate teenager is now proudly using his fame for charity.
John is a passionate fan of the Northwestern Wildcats basketball team. Back in 2017, the youngster was heartbroken when the team lost against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the NCAA “March Madness” Tournament during the final seven and a half minutes of the game.
Northwestern lost 79-73 after the referee called a foul against the team. At the pinnacle of the game’s devastating conclusion, several news outlets captured footage of John throwing up his arms in emotion and tearfully yelling over the defeat.
The clip of his “What-Just-Happened Wail” reaction went viral, earning him the “Northwestern Kid” nickname.
Becoming a meme meant that John received a fair amount of mean comments and snide messages from social media users – but it has also made his face a beloved part of internet culture. Now 14 years old, he says that he has been approached by dozens of people on the street asking for selfies and autographs.
The good-natured teenager also says that he has been happy to be so synonymous with his favorite team – and he was recently given the chance to take advantage of the online fame.
With basketball fans now revving up for this year’s “March Madness” tournament, Pizza Hut approached John’s family and asked for permission to use the iconic photo of his face for their tournament ad campaign.
His family was “not interested in exploiting John’s notoriety for personal gain,” so they left the decision up to him.
Upon researching Pizza Hut’s charity programs, John realized that he could use his celebrity status to help raise money and awareness for two different causes: providing books to children in need and donating surplus food supplies to the hungry.
The teenager agreed to the campaign, and Pizza Hut even offered to pay him a significant sum of money for his participation, but he insisted that it all be donated to the company’s charity programs instead. Although his family declined to disclose the sum, The Chicago Tribune estimates it is at least over $50,000.
“I am not interested in getting any more fame from this, believe me, but when the chance came to help others, that’s when I agreed to it and I’m honored to make a positive change out of this,’’ John told The Tribune.
“I see those pictures and that video and I’m reminded of who I truly am at the center because that’s a raw version of me, no sugar-coating, and it reminds me to not shy away from it or my passions: my love of sports, Northwestern and my family,’’ he added. “It also reminds me of one of the greatest weekends of my life.’’
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