Clippers Make Robbie Stanford’s Final Wish A Reality

Rowan Kavner

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – The smile on Robbie Stanford’s face Friday wouldn’t let anyone know what he’s going through.

Stanford was diagnosed with leukemia during a routine physical 15 years ago and is now in the final stages of his fight with cancer. One of his final wishes was to take his son to a Clippers game, but the Clippers provided much more than that, letting him practice with the team early Friday.

“I never knew I was going to get invited to come to the practice and actually meet the guys,” Stanford said. “This has been just an amazing experience to be here and put on some gear and go out and shoot a few air balls.”

Stanford laughed as he said that, his effervescence and positive attitude masking the fight he’s gone through. He said 15 years is a long time to cope with the emotions of the situation.

“Now, I focus on my family,” Stanford said. “Every day is a holiday, so we can just love each other.”

The only time the smile disappeared for Stanford was a he got choked up talking about the job his wife has done helping start a unique preschool. Stanford, now 54 years old, has a 16-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son. As Stanford battled cancer, he and his wife looked for part-time childcare but discovered most facilities didn’t offer flexible childcare.

Meanwhile, the medical bills were stacking up. When the children were younger, the Stanford family couldn’t afford to send their youngest to childcare and needed to figure out a stable environment for their children on their own.

That’s where their idea for the Village Tree Preschool began.

“About 10 years ago, my wife and I looked for a preschool for our children. We were basically broke because we had so many medical bills. So my wife started a preschool to help families with chronic and terminal illness. And today,” Stanford said, battling back tears, “it’s one of the leading schools in the Culver City area. It’s just an amazing, amazing experience what my wife created and how I can help her. Every day that we help families is a gift. It’s a gift.”

Stanford’s been a Clippers fan for five-plus years. He got to meet the whole team and spend some time individually with the players before running in lay-up lines. It was hard for him to choose a favorite, as he spoke on the sideline to Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick and others.

“It was all really exciting,” Stanford said. “It’s so hard to choose. But meeting Blake, meeting Chris, I mean, come on. They’re all amazing. So it’s hard for me to choose.”

Crawford said moments like that put everything in perspective and make him realize there’s much more to life than basketball. He said it was cool and inspiring to get to see Stanford, and it was moving for Crawford to hear what Stanford told him.

“He just said he was honored to be here,” Crawford said, “and I was one of his heroes.”

Crawford also complimented the Clippers for reaching out as much as they do, making dreams like Stanford’s come true. Stanford’s family watched from the sideline as he got his wish made.

“I’ve been around, I think, six teams, and I would say they’re at the top as far as reaching out and connecting with people and connecting with the community,” Crawford said. “A lot of people play a part in that. I’ve seen other situations where it’s not a top priority.”

Stanford will also attend Saturday’s game against the Pelicans with his family, watching pregame warm-ups courtside, high-fiving the team as the Clippers take the court. He’ll serve as the Clippers’ MVP captain of the game.

“It’s been a great experience,” Stanford said.