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Sun, Sept. 22

<I>A heart set on lighting up little faces</I><BR>Make-A-Wish founder's encounter with sick child makes dreams come true<BR>

Courtesy Photo

Arizona Department of Public Safety officer Frank Shankwitz lets Chris Greicius sit on his motorcycle, in April of 1980. Greicius is the boy who inspired Shankwitz to start the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

When he got the wings, Shankwitz took them to the hospital where Greicius was in a coma. He had hung up his uniform next to the bed, so Shankwitz pinned the wings to it.

"Just as I did that, he came out of the coma. He saw the uniform and smiled and he just lit up the room," Shankwitz said. "He asked, 'Am I officially a motorcycle cop now?'"

Greicius died the next day, and Shankwitz said, "I hope his wings carried him to Heaven."

Shankwitz went to the funeral in Illinois and helped conduct a "full police funeral. We buried him with honors in uniform, and presented a flag to his mother."

On his way home, Shankwitz said he "thought about how happy Chris was and how his wish had helped take away the pain. I thought, 'if I can do this for one child, why couldn't I do it for children all over the world?'"

He contacted Greicius' mother about his idea, and "she said, 'let's do it.'"

Shankwitz knew the right people to talk with, and his Make-A-Wish Foundation became official in 1980. There are now 70 chapters in the United States, and 27 internationally. They have granted more than 120,000 wishes worldwide to children with illnesses.

Shankwitz, who graduated from Prescott High School in 1961, said several of the classmates he went to school with have become very active in his organization by becoming volunteers or joining the board of directors.

The Northern Arizona Make-A-Wish Foundation grants more than 50 wishes a year, he said.

The concept of the Make-A-Wish Foundation has changed over the years from helping terminally ill children to helping children with life threatening diseases because "we're getting more and more children surviving these illnesses by the grace of God and modern medicine."

There are four categories of wishes a sick child can choose from, and they fill in the blanks. These include: "I want to be...", "I want to see...", "I want to have...", and "I want to meet...."

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