REFORM- Learning to drive, getting a car, and going on a date: these are the worries of a typical 16-year-old. For kids that age, tackling these obstacles can feel like the most important thing in life. However, for young Robbie, those problems seem trivial compared to what he deals with everyday. He was diagnosed at the age of 2 months with cystic fibrosis, a condition that plagues him with lung infections, forces him to endure extended hospital stays and makes him suffer from severe asthma attacks. Just the thought of having another asthma flare-up can cause him severe anxiety attacks. As if all of this weren’t enough, Robbie was diagnosed last year with diabetes and now has to inject himself twice a day with insulin.
His grandmother, Faye, has raised him since he was 2-years-old and said that even though he is always in pain, he hides it from the family. “He accepts what he has as a part of life,” she said. So when Wish Coordinator Shelley Breiner of Kids Wish Network heard about this brave young man and his love of classic rock, she decided to make music a part of his life. Armed with the name of Robbie’s favorite music group, Lynyrd Skynyrd, she ‘rocked around the clock’ until she was able to creatively tie all of Robbie’s favorite things together so that his wish of strumming his very own electric guitar was above and beyond all of his expectations.
When Shelley contacted Lynyrd Skynyrd’s management company, Vector Management, and told them about Robbie, they quickly made a few well-placed calls to help. They asked Gibson to donate an amplifier and a 6-string Flying V guitar in Robbie’s favorite color, white. From there, the guitar was shipped to Lynyrd Skynyrd on tour and the band took time out of its hectic road schedule to personally autograph the instrument. Now when Robbie plays his new guitar he can see the band members’ personal notes to him. “He couldn’t get the box open fast enough,” Faye said when he received his wish guitar. “He said ‘Wow…they were just in concert here!’ ”
Robbie would have been thrilled with just the guitar and amp, but Shelley didn’t stop there; she also put together a gift box full of supplies for an amateur musician. The contents of the package included the guitar cable and tuner; a signed photograph of the band Alabama with 16 of their CDs for inspiration; an autographed photo of Jon Bon Jovi; and 4 copies of Guitar One magazine as a preview of the one-year subscription he will be getting of the music-filled publication. In order to guarantee that he will know his way around the guitar, the gift box also contained the phone number of the instructor who will be providing Robbie with lessons. And when Robbie works up an appetite jamming with his 6-string, he can re-energize with the 3-month supply of his favorite food, beef jerky.
“I really don’t have a favorite song. I don’t know what song I want to learn to play first,” Robbie said. And when asked what he thought of the guitar, one word summed it up: “Cool!” Faye said that like most teens, he tries to hide his excitement. “But I can tell,” she said. She wishes that her son Greg could have lived to see Robbie’s dream come true. “Greg had always wanted to get a wish granted for Robbie, but he couldn’t remember the name of the organization,” Faye said. With a twist of fate, Kids Wish Network coincidentally contacted Greg’s wife about a donation the day after he died, and she was able to honor her husband’s wish by submitting Robbie’s name. “Kids Wish Network doesn’t know it, but by giving Robbie his wish, they made 2 dreams come true,” said Faye. “It’s a special thing they have done.”
Kids Wish Network would like to thank all of its gracious sponsors: Gibson Custom Guitar Shop in Nashville, TN, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joel Hoffner of Vector Management, Alabama, Sam Ash Music, Guitar One magazine, Jon Bon Jovi and Jack Link’s Beef Jerky.
Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized non-profit organization whose mission is to grant wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses. If you know a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of their wish granting services, please call (813) 891-9374 or toll free at (888) 918-9004. You can also visit its web site at www.kidswishnetwork.org.