Originally Published: October 24, 2010 8:42 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Granting a wish to a dying boy in 1980 has inspired an organization that has provided joy to youths throughout the world.
That year, Frank Shankwitz and other members of the Arizona Department of Public Safety granted a wish to Chris Greicius, 7, to become a policeman. The officers gave Chris a ride in a DPS helicopter and patrol car.
They also gave Chris a custom-made highway patrolman's uniform, as well as a motorcycle proficiency test, which he passed while wearing his uniform.
Chris died that year from leukemia, but his experience gave birth to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Shankwitz and four others created the nonprofit organization to grant the wishes to other sick children, and he served as its first president.
Make-A-Wish started out by granting wishes to children who had six months to live, said Shankwitz, who graduated from Prescott High School and now lives here. However, the foundation's mission changed 20 years ago to serve youths ages 2 and a half to 18 who have terminal illnesses.
The foundation serves approximately 250 youths a year in Arizona, and has granted wishes to about 3,500 youths statewide since 1980, Shankwitz said. Nationwide, the figure has reached 198,000, and the worldwide totals have reached 240,000 kids.
"Right now, it is a wish every 40 minutes," Shankwitz said. He added some youths who were expected to live no longer than a year are now in their 20s and 30s.
In appreciation of Shankwitz's work with Make-A-Wish, the Tempe Sister Cities organization presented him with the "Making a World of Difference" award at its fourth annual gala Sept. 30.
Make-A-Wish's biggest accomplishment is bringing joy to families, said Chris's mother, Linda Pauling, who has no other children and lives in Scottsdale. She said she helped to found Make-A-Wish, served on its board and continues to volunteer.
She said Shankwitz is "very fortunate right now" that he has time to devote to Make-A-Wish. He retired in 2002 after a 30-year career with DPS.
Shankwitz, a native of Chicago, recalls living in poverty when he moved with his mother to Seligman at the age of 10. Strangers "literally helped us, fed us, clothed us.
"They gave me odd jobs," he said.
Shankwitz, 67, married and now a grandfather, said the award from the Sister City organization will increase awareness of Make-A-Wish. For more information, log onto www.wishaz.org.
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