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Chris became the first and only honorary highway patrol officer in the history of the Arizona Highway Patrol, Shankwitz said. Chris was granted his own badge and certificate making him a full officer. The 7-year-old was also presented with motorcycle wings and later a custom-made uniform.

FINAL WISH COMES TRUE

START WITH A HEART: State Trooper Frank Shankwitz helped make 7-year-old Chris Greicius — who was dying of leukemia — Arizona’s first and only honorary DPS officer in 1980. The meeting helped launch the Make-AWish Foundation. PROVIDED PHOTO

In 1980, Customs Agent Tom Hoffman contacted Arizona Highway Patrol asking if there was any way for 7-year-old Chris to meet motorcycle highway patrol officers like Ponch and Jon. Shankwitz was chosen to be the patrolman that Chris would meet. Chris was flown from his Scottsdale hospital to the headquarters building in Phoenix.

“I was standing by with a motorcycle and I had no idea what to expect. I had never met this little boy before,” Shankwitz said, “The helicopter landed, the door opened and out jumps this little boy, he runs over to the motorcycle and says, ‘Hi, I’m Chris. Can I get on your motorcycle?’” Chris knew where all the configurations were, which switch turned on the sirens and what should be placed in which pocket of the motorcycle, Shankwitz recalled. “Chris is just giggling and laughing and I look at his mother and she’s crying. It dawned on me that for this moment, she had her typical 7-year-old back instead of this little boy laying in a hospital bed,” Shankwitz said.

A few days after his wish was granted, Chris passed away. The boy passed away as a fellow officer, and Shankwitz was flown out to Kewanee, Illinois, where he was met by Illinois state, federal and city police to give Chris his full police funeral. Chris was buried in his uniform and his grave marker reads, “Arizona Trooper.” It was during the flight home from Illinois that the seed that would grow into Make-AWish was planted. After months of planning, organizing and finding people as passionate in the project as he was, Shankwitz helped found Make-A-Wish. The first official Make-A-Wish child was nicknamed “Bopsy.” Bopsy was yet another 7-year-old boy with terminal leukemia and had three wishes; to go to Disneyland, ride in a hot air balloon and to be a fireman. Shankwitz was able to grant all three wishes for Bopsy and Bopsy became the golden key for the foundation, opening up the sponsorship between Disney and Make-A-Wish. “The goal has always been just to bring joy and happiness to the children,” Shankwitz said. “Just to give them and their families something to look forward to, no matter how small or large the wish is. Whether it be Disneyland or meeting a celebrity, the wish gives the child and the family something to look forward to. A special moment.” Shankwitz currently lives in Prescott and has since given up his position with Make-AWish. He is now a keynote speaker and travels presenting his, “Everyone can be a hero,” talk around the country. It is during the small meet-and-greets following his speech that Shankwitz receives his greatest reward; meeting and speaking with Make-A-Wish children. “The biggest reward to me is when an adult will come up to me and say, ‘I’m a wish kid.’ They’ll start describing the experience and I’ll look in their eyes and I can just see all of that thrill come back. They just relive that moment,” Shankwitz said.  AzBusiness Angels | 77

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The mission of Az Business Angels is to help create an alliance that will give new hope to nonprofits and inspire businesses to make it thei...

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