Unity group wants to 'change lives, one wish at a time'

Joe Napsha
| Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A group of dog lovers took their favorite pet for a walk last weekend in Masontown for a special cause — to bring a bit of happiness to adults facing a life-limiting illness or disease.

The second annual Journey & Jaxx 5K Walk and Wag raised $1,027 for Unity, A Journey of Hope, a tax-exempt nonprofit that grants wishes to adults with life-limiting illnesses, said John Robinson of Vanderbilt, president and co-founder of the organization.

The competitive walk held on Browns Run Trail in Masontown was named after Robinson's dogs, Journey and Jaxx, Robinson said. About 25 canines were registered for the event, which also helped to raise money for canine safety, Robinson said. The Robinsons are training Journey, a golden retriever-poodle mix, to become certified as a pet therapy dog.

Those involved in Walk & Wag had the opportunity to release a memory balloon in memory of a loved one or canine who had died, Robinson said.

“We will never forget the ones who have gone before us, and we keep their memories alive. Therefore, the balloon release was very touching, and many tears of love were shed,” Robinson said.

There was a rabies clinic, a doggy skills competition and animal behavior clinic. Fayette Friends of Animals and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had dogs available for adoption.

Despite the sunny day on Sept. 28, the turnout was less than Robinson and his wife, Bobbi Robinson, co-founder of Unity, had expected.

“The poor turnout was disappointing, because a lot of hard work goes into planning an event like this. Getting people involved is often difficult, and in order to continue granting wishes, we need more help,” Bobbi Robinson explained.

“We have an awesome base of volunteers, but people need to know we exist,” she stated.

The group focuses on granting wishes to adults in Western Pennsylvania, but it has extended its helping hand to fulfilling wishes for adults in Houston, Denver and Chicago. Since it was founded in August 2007, the organization has granted wishes to more than 150 people, John Robinson said.

“The wishes we grant are for veterans who fought the wars to keep us safe, nurses, teachers, grandparents, and they deserve a little happiness as they fight the battle of a life-limiting illness. We're always looking to help someone, or someone to help us,” Bobbi Robinson said.

The Robinsons began to grant wishes to those facing life-limiting illnesses when the couple operated a personal care home for hospice patients from September 2005 to July 2007, John Robinson said.

“All that lived here were granted a wish or two or three,” said John Robinson, a hospice nurse for a Monongahela organization.

Robinson said they had no intention of establishing a nonprofit organization when they were operating their personal care home. When they closed the personal care home, they created the nonprofit.

“It kind of blossomed,” John Robinson said.

Most of the wishes that the organization grants are referrals from Make-A-Wish, Robinson said. Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children with life-threatening conditions, while Unity, A Journey of Hope helps adults 18 and older.

Among those adults who have received a wish is a 38-year-old New Castle woman with a brain tumor, who went to a spa for a day. Another woman suffering from an illness was granted a trip to the beach at South Bethany, Del.

One of the organization's volunteers, Karen Roderick Tummons, 58, of Masontown, who died of cancer in June 2011, was another recipient. The Sept. 28 fundraising walk in Masontown was conducted in honor of Tummons, the wife of Dr. Donald Tummons, a veterinarian.

“Browns Run Trail was her passion,” Robinson said.

Karen Tummons always wanted a horse, so she was granted the use of a horse owned by a friend, John Robinson said.

“It's an honor to be included in someone's life. We give them a positive when they are going through a negative part of their life,” John Robinson said.

“We do change lives, one wish at a time,” Robinson added.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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