Co-written by Brooke Smith
In my lifetime I have had the good fortune to come in contact with a plethora of amazing people who are willing to share their unique stories with me. One person whose captivating accomplishments stand out to me is Frank Shankwitz. Frank is a beacon of light who is brightening the lives of children everywhere. His story begins in 1980, when he was an Arizona Highway Patrol officer. In this year, Frank played an integral part in granting the first inspirational "wish." This one wish led to the founding the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Today, this organization has grown to include 63 chapters nationally with 36 international chapters. Make-A-Wish has granted a staggering total of more than 280,000 wishes to young children worldwide. In addition, the foundation puts an impressive 80 percent of its donated funds toward granting wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.
In the spring of 1978, Officer Shankwitz was involved in a speed pursuit of a drunken driver when he was hit and pronounced dead at the scene. An off-duty emergency room nurse, who was near the scene, brought him back to life. During the months of suffering and rehabilitation, Frank wondered why his life was spared. Two years later Frank received a phone call from his fellow officer Ron Cox, who was on a special assignment with U.S. Customs, that answered his question.
Ron Cox told Frank that a 7-year-old boy with leukemia, Chris Greicius, had expressed his dying wish to become a Highway Patrol motorcycle officer. Ron and Frank teamed up with other Highway Patrol officers and Chris' mother to grant his wish. Chris' day began with a helicopter ride to the Highway Patrol headquarters. When Chris landed, he was greeted by Frank and several other officers. His day included being able to help drive a Highway Patrol car, a tour of the headquarters and he was presented a badge, making him the first and to this day, the only honorary Arizona Highway Patrol officer in the history of the Patrol. Chris' doctors allowed him to go home that evening as they were astonished to find his vital signs dramatically improved. The following day Frank and fellow officers went to Chris' home and presented him with a custom-made Arizona Highway Patrol uniform and, upon learning Chris had a small battery operated motorcycle, gave him a motorcycle proficiency test and made him a Highway Patrol motorcycle officer, his ultimate "wish." The following day Chris was readmitted to the hospital and slipped into a coma. Frank visited his room and put the new motor officers wings on his uniform. At that moment, Chris came out of the coma, saw his wings, smiled, and laughed. Chris went back into a coma and passed away later that evening.
The media's response to Chris's miracle was all the inspiration Frank needed to move forward with the creation of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Frank realized that press coverage would be extremely beneficial to his budding organization and quickly discovered the first official wish child, Frank "Bopsy" Salazar. Bopsy was another 7-year-old with leukemia. The Make-A-Wish Foundation only grants one wish per child and Bopsy couldn't make up his mind on three wishes: ride in a hot air balloon, be a fireman, or go to Disneyland. Frank, being the first president, broke the rules and granted all three wishes. This caught the attention of Disney and marked the beginning of a wonderful relationship between Disney and Make-A-Wish. From that first wish, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has seen amazing improvements and reeled in remarkable success. One of the wonders resulting from the success of the foundation has been termed "The Power of A Wish." In many cases, after a child receives his or her wish, he or she goes into remission and is able to survive their illness.
The feats accomplished by Make-A-Wish were only the beginning for Frank Shankwitz. He is currently assisting in the production of a television show, The Extra Mile, which will benefit our Wounded Warriors, our veterans who have been severely wounded.
Frank Shankwitz has never measured his success by money. Instead, Frank's success lies in the value of the positive impacts he leaves on the lives of the thousands of needy children and families worldwide. His personal achievements are worth more than any amount of money.