The Wish Project tour makes stop in Marlinton

The Wish Project Tour founder Robbie Robinson, left, visited Marlinton Elementary School last Tuesday to grant the wish of a young girl. During his visit Robinson, accompanied by tour manager Jason Howard, sang several original songs and a few Christmas songs – with the help of the students. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Robbie Robinson and his The Wish Project made a stop in Marlinton last week to grant a wish for a Marlinton girl.

When Robinson, a South Carolina native, was 18-years-old, his life was changed forever. On November 21, 1999, he was in a terrible car accident that nearly took his life.

“I had a brain injury,” he said. “I had brain surgery on Thanksgiving Day.

“We were on our way home from a Christian concert and the right rear tire exploded. It sent us rolling on I-77, and my head busted through the passenger window. My seat was reclined and the seatbelt locked – they said it shot me out the back window.”

Robinson was rushed into neurosurgery and pulled through, although the doctors told him he would have short term memory issues and might not regain his ability to hum or recognize a tune.

That would have been a great loss, considering the fact that Robinson was on the path to becoming a professional musician. Coming from a musical family, Robinson is a self-taught pianist who began writing his own songs when he was in the eighth grade.

“I started playing by ear,” he said. “My mom played, so I watched her, and I was determined to figure out how to do this. I started to learn how to read music in school. I opened my mom’s hymnbook and found ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ because I knew that song. I wrote out all the letters on the top staff and sat there forever trying to figure it out. Man, I was proud when my mom got home, and I played it with two fingers.

“I just kept on from there.”

Robinson began singing in high school with a group of friends and discovered he had quite the talent. 

After his accident, Robinson returned to college at University of South Carolina Aiken, all the while contacting recording studios in Nashville, Tennessee.

When he received a call back from Omni Sound Studio, he abruptly left South Carolina for Nashville, to record his music.

“The first two albums were Christian albums,” he said. “That was everything I had written, up to that point. I had no idea how that was going to work. I was so nervous the first time I drove to Nashville.”

Robinson moved to Nashville in 2005 to continue his music career. He also began volunteering with the Make A Wish Foundation and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

“When I wasn’t making music, I was working with kids,” he said. “Man, we granted some wishes. The most popular wish I granted was a shopping spree, which was cool because we get to go with them.”

Inspired by the work he did with those foundations, Robinson decided to create his own, which he named The Wish Project.

“Make A Wish grants a wish for kids who have been through life-altering illnesses, and before I volunteered for them, I thought they only did it for kids that were terminal, but they actually do it for kids who have been through an illness that is often terminal, but they have survived it,” Robinson said.

Make A Wish was doing such a great job for children with illnesses, Robinson decided The Wish Project would focus on children who live in poverty, are abused, have less than ideal home situations or have lost their parents and/or loved ones to illness.

On November 21, 2016 – the anniversary of his wreck – Robinson and his foundation granted its first wish to a 12 year old boy whose mother was suffering from stage four cancer. Robinson took the boy on a shopping spree and knew that he had chosen the right path when he saw the expression on the boy’s face.

“He didn’t know what to wish for – he never asked anybody for anything,” Robinson said. “When I was giving him ideas, the shopping spree came up, and he perked up real quick on that one.”

Since that first boy, Robinson has traveled the country, sharing his music and granting wishes. Last Tuesday, Robinson’s bus pulled up outside Marlinton Elementary School, where the latest wish was granted.

Robinson performed several songs inspired by his great niece, Cheyenne, who, at the age of three, was diagnosed with a form of sarcoma and was granted a wish by Make A Wish. He also led the MES students in a round of Christmas songs before he announced that he was granting a wish to a girl at the school who recently suffered a loss and was in need of some cheer at Christmas.

Although Robinson went through a long recovery of his own, he said he drew a lot of strength from watching Cheyenne power through her treatments and come through the other side with test results stated as NED – No  Evidence of Disease.
“Now, NED is my favorite name,” he said, laughing.

“I went through a tough recovery,” he continued. “I was eighteen years old when it happened to me, but I couldn’t imagine being three and going through this. Then, starting kindergarten as a girl with no hair. But you know what, she did not hesitate. The assistant teacher in her class said, ‘I’m going to tell you what, that child came in bold as I’ve ever seen, and by the end of the week, every kid in the class wanted to be bald like Cheyenne.’”

Cheyenne has acted as a bit of a good luck charm for Robinson. She has been featured on the cover or back cover of most of his albums, and he has written several songs about her.

During his performance at MES, Robinson said several times that it was the best audience he had ever performed for and he hopes to return soon – to sing songs and grant more wishes.

Children may be nominated as wish recipients on the foundation’s website. Children may ask for three wishes and, if selected, the board will determines which of the three will be granted.

For more information on the foundation and Robinson’s music, visit wishprojecttour.com

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