In the days since his passing, it has become quite clear that Robin Williams was something special to everyone. To millions of fans he was a source of laughter, but to leave it there would be a grave injustice. He was a career-savior to The Wire creator David Simon, the “Muhammad Ali of Comedy” to Jimmy Fallon, the best talk show guest in the world to Conan O’Brien, an unexpected source of affirmation to Questlove, THIS to Kanye West, and the list goes on and on.
To a terminally ill young girl and her family, he was — true to one of his most famous roles — a wish-granting hero. In 2004, long before the advent of self-serving Instagram accounts and without a PR team to push the story to media outlets, Robin Williams made a secret trip to see that young girl, and the story is only now becoming public because her family wants it that way.
Jessica Cole was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 5. One of her last dying wishes was to meet Robin Williams. With the help of the Make-a-Wish foundation, Williams and the Cole family arranged for the little girl to meet her hero.
But the plan was derailed before it could be set in motion. Jessica was supposed to fly to California to be on a movie set with Williams, whom she loved watching in Mrs. Doubtfire, but unfortunately she became too weak to make the trip. Her tumor was growing rapidly. The doctors were helpless.
“His office called and said he was coming the next day,” Jessica’s father, Mark Cole, told WFMY the day after Williams’ death.
Williams secretly chartered a private plane and surprised Jessica. She could be forgiven for not immediately realizing what was going on. Williams quickly eliminated her confusion.
“She was a little disoriented at that point with extra fluid on her brain,” Cole, told WFMY. “It was out of place for her also seeing Robin Williams walk into our home. She was confused when he first came in. Then he started his Mrs. Doubtfire imitations and then she figured it out pretty quickly.”
“He acted like he had known her forever. He was a lot of fun to be with.” Cole said of Williams, who spent the day playing cards and watching football with Jessica. “Robin Williams was our hero.”
Jessica passed away two months after Williams’ visit. Shortly after her death, Williams donated a redwood tree in her honor.