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Frank Shankwitz, who created the Make-A-Wish Foundation in honor of a terminally ill boy, dies at 77

(The AEGIS Alliance) – Frank Shankwitz is the founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The former Arizona Highway Patrol officer has died, aged 77.

The Make-A-Wish foundation confirmed Shankwitz died at his residence in Prescott of esophageal cancer at the age of 77.

Make-A-Wish is held in high regard for granting the wishes of children coping with critical illnesses or diseases. ‘Wishes’ vary from trips to day-long experiences.

The non-profit charity was created in 1980 after Shankwitz and 5 others helped out a seven-year-old Phoenix boy battling leukemia to be a highway patrol officer for one day.

Shankwitz additionally initially served as its president and CEO.

The charity estimates it has helped understand the wishes of over 500,000 youngsters. It has grown to 60 chapters across the United States.

Frank Shankwitz was a member of the Arizona Highway Patrol’s ten-man tactical unit that covered the whole state by motorbike. He stayed with the police department for 42-years  before finally retiring in 2014. He began Make-A-Wish in 1980.

Shankwitz was a patrol officer with the Arizona Department of Public Safety from 1972 until he retired in 1996, the state agency confirms. He is pictured in 2019.

He remained a reserve detective but additionally worked for the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division’s Office of Special Investigations. In all, he labored 42 years in law enforcement.

The concept for Make-A-Wish began with a terminally ailing boy who had only a week to live.

His dying wish was to change into a police officer and it fell to Shankwitz to assist.

Shankwitz was on patrol one afternoon when the dispatcher radioed in and ordered him to search for the closest payphone as quickly as possible, his commanders at the station had a vital message for him.

Frank Shankwitz shows Chris Greicius his motorcycle. The police department had a custom-made uniform created for Greicius; the shop proprietor and two workers stayed up the entire night sewing so it would be completed in time. Chris died only a few days afterward.

Frank Shankwitz is pictured with Chris Greicius, the 7-year-old boy who inspired him to help begin the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Chris Greicius poses in his police uniform on his motorbike.

“I called in thinking I was in trouble for something,” he recalled in 2019.

Instead, he was being asked for a favor by a Customs Agent named Tom Austin who had befriended a young boy named Chris Greicius with leukemia.

Chris’s heroes were Ponch and John from the hit TV show about the California Highway Patrol, CHiPS and he only wished to meet a real motorbike cop.

They arranged to pick Chris up from the hospital with a helicopter and flew him to the police headquarters in Phoenix.

“As the helicopter was approaching…I could look up and I can see this kid’s face pressed against the glass, looking down a big smile on his face,” Shankwitz stated, who anticipated the paramedics to assist him as soon as they landed.

Instead, Chris came bounding out the door with energy, “He was giggling and laughing, running all over the place.” He could not contain his excitement. Shankwitz remembers looking over at Chris’ mom crying, “I could not understand why at first. Then it dawned on me, she has her seven-year-old back.”

Shankwitz’s police sergeant sits with Chris Greicius, the seven-year-old boy diagnosed with leukemia whose dying wish was to change into a motorbike cop like his heroes in the CHIPS TV show.

Chris’s dream was to be a motorcycle officer and the station commissioned him a set of ‘wings’ – the silver insignia that every one of the motorbike cops pins onto their uniform.

Before they had an opportunity to present it to him, Chris took a devastating turn for the worst and fell right into a coma.

Shankwitz rushed to the hospital and pinned it to his tiny custom-made uniform that was hanging close to his bedside. The boy became the first and only honorary highway patrol officer within the State of Arizona. He died just a few days later.

Flying back from Chris’ funeral is when Shankwitz came up with the concept for Make-A-Wish, “I started thinking, here is a boy who had a wish and we made it happen. Why can’t we do this for other kids? And that is when the concept for Make-A-Wish was born.”

The life of Frank Shankwitz was dramatized last year in the movie Wish Man.

Getting Make-A-Wish off the ground was not simple, however, Shankwitz’s work ethic helped drive the undertaking forward as he continued to work full time with the police department while attempting to balance the non-profit in 20-hour lengthy days.

After 18 months, Shankwitz made the choice to hand over the reins to more capable hands. “I was also going into narcotics at the time, I couldn’t have my face and name plastered all over the place anymore.”

Shankwitz knew he needed skilled professional help from the world of non-profits: “You’ve heard the phrase, ‘surround yourself with people smarter than you, right? Well, that was the best decision the board made at the time.”

They started hiring people who had the right expertise, background, and contacts to turn Make-A-Wish into what it’s become in the present day, a worldwide non-profit in 50 countries all over the world that have helped to make over 334,000 wishes come true.

Frank Shankwitz is pictured at the premiere of his movie Wish Man that debuted in 2019.

Andrew Steele, who plays the role of Frank Shankwitz talks to the young actor who plays Chris Greicius in a poignant scene in the movie, Wish Man, which was released in 2019.

Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Kyle James Lee

Majority Owner of The AEGIS Alliance. I studied in college for Media Arts, Game Development. Talents include Writer/Article Writer, Graphic Design, Photoshop, Web Design and Development, Video Production, Social Media, and eCommerce.

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