The co-founder of the Make-A-Wish foundation has died of esophageal cancer aged 77.
Frank Shankwitz, also a former patrol officer with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, passed away at his home in Prescott.
His organization has helped realize the wishes of more than 500,000 children since it was founded in 1980.
The Make-A-Wish organization was founded after Mr. Shankwitz and five other kindhearted people helped a terminally ill 7-year-old boy be a patrol officer for a day.
The young boy named Chris Greicius only had a week to live and his dying wish was to become a police officer.
Mr. Shankwitz was asked for a favor by a Customs Agent named Tom Austin who had befriended the young boy.
“I called in thinking I was in trouble for something,” he shared in a 2019 interview with Daily Mail.
They arranged to fly the 7-year-old from the hospital 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,” Mr. Shankwitz said.
“He was laughing and giggling, running all over the place.”
Mr. Shankwitz remembered seeing the boy’s mother crying: “I couldn’t understand why at first. Then it dawned on me, she has her seven-year-old back.”
The station commissioned the young boy a set of ‘wings’ – a silver insignia that motorcycle officers pin to their uniforms. But before they had a chance to give it to Chris, he fell into a coma.
Mr. Shankwitz went to the hospital and pinned the ‘wings’ to Chris’ small custom-made uniform.
Chris became the first and only honorary highway patrol officer in Arizona.
He passed away a few days later.
“I started thinking, here’s a boy who had a wish and we made it happen. Why can’t we do that for other children? And that’s when the idea for Make-A-Wish was born,” Mr. Shankwitz expressed.
The charity has since grown to 60 chapters nationwide and has helped fulfill the dreams of over 500,000 children.
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