Frank Shankwitz, a Founder of Make-a-Wish, Is Dead at 77


Frank Shankwitz, an Arizona Highway Patrol officer who, after serving to a terminally sick boy understand his dream of turning into a bike cop, co-founded the Make-a-Wish Foundation and served as its first president, died on Jan. 24 at his residence in Prescott, Ariz. He was 77.

His spouse, Kitty Shankwitz, mentioned the trigger was esophageal most cancers.

Mr. Shankwitz was on patrol in April 1980 when one in every of his supervisors radioed him to return to headquarters in Phoenix. The division had discovered a few boy named Chris Greicius who needed to be a bike officer when he grew up, identical to Ponch and Jon, the principle characters on his favourite tv present, “CHiPs.” He additionally had end-stage leukemia.

The division had determined to make Chris’s want come true, if only for a couple of days. A police helicopter ferried him to police headquarters from the hospital the place he was being handled. Mr. Shankwitz was to greet him out entrance, subsequent to his motorbike.

“Figuring he’d be introduced out in a wheelchair, I used to be shocked when the door opened and a pair of sneakers emerged,” Mr. Shankwitz wrote in his memoir, “Wish Man” (2018). “Out stepped Chris, an excited 7-year-old boy who appeared so energetic it was laborious to imagine he was sick.”

Mr. Shankwitz confirmed Chris his motorbike, and after he and the opposite officers gave him a badge, the top of the division made him an honorary officer. Chris was feeling effectively sufficient to go residence that evening, and the subsequent day the officers introduced him a custom-made uniform.

To develop into a bike officer, although, Chris needed to cross a driving check — which he did, in his entrance yard, on his small battery-powered motorbike. Mr. Shankwitz promised to convey him a particular badge worn by motorbike cops; he additionally referred to as NBC, the community that aired “CHiPs,” and requested for the present’s stars, Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox, to autograph a photograph.

The subsequent day Chris was again within the hospital, and by the point Mr. Shankwitz arrived with the badge and the image, he had fallen into a light-weight coma. Chris had hung his uniform by the mattress, and as Mr. Shankwitz pinned the badge on his shirt, the boy awakened.

“Am I an official motorbike cop now?” Chris requested.

“You positive are,” Mr. Shankwitz replied.

Chris died later that day. Mr. Shankwitz and a colleague attended his funeral, in Southern Illinois, borrowing a pair of Illinois Highway Patrol bikes to accompany the hearse.

On the flight residence, Mr. Shankwitz tried to course of all that had occurred. He realized that what the division had accomplished for Chris, he and his associates may do for different youngsters.

Before he landed, he had sketched a plan for what just some months later turned the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Today the group has 64 chapters within the United States and 36 internationally, which have delivered “needs” —  starting from “eat in a restaurant” to “meet the pope” —  to greater than 500,000 critically sick youngsters.

Frank Earle Shankwitz was born on March 8, 1943, in Chicago. His father, Frank Paul Shankwitz, was a salesman at Montgomery Ward. His mom, Lorraine Geraldine (Mathews) Shankwitz, was a waitress.

His dad and mom separated when he was 2 and fought bitterly over his custody — his mom kidnapped him a number of instances, solely to work out an uneasy association along with his father. When Frank was 10 she took him along with her to Arizona, the place they lived in a trailer within the city of Seligman, positioned shut sufficient to the Nevada border that Mr. Shankwitz recalled seeing the glow from atomic bomb checks.

Mr. Shankwitz joined the Air Force instantly after highschool and served for 5 years as a navy police officer, largely at bomber bases in England. He left the service in 1965 and moved to Phoenix, the place he labored for Motorola and enrolled in evening courses at a local people faculty.

Though he was quickly constructing a white-collar profession — by 1970 he had a spouse, two youngsters and a mortgage and had earned a school diploma and a sequence of promotions — he was rising stressed with workplace life. Some of his highschool associates had joined the Arizona Highway Patrol, and it didn’t take a lot cajoling for him to use. He was accepted in 1972; in 1975 he turned a part of an elite motorbike unit, assigned to patrol your entire state.

In 1978 Mr. Shankwitz was pursuing a drunken driver when one other drunken driver blindsided him. His accomplice pronounced him lifeless, however a passing off-duty nurse carried out CPR, resuscitating him. It took him over a yr to get better, and it was shortly after he returned to obligation that he met Chris Greicius.

Mr. Shankwitz and 5 different folks based the Make-a-Wish Foundation in 1980, a couple of months after Chris’s funeral. It grew quickly: Within a couple of years it had develop into a nationwide group, with state chapters opening virtually month-to-month.

In addition to his spouse, he’s survived by two daughters, Christine Chester and Denise Partlow; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His first marriage, to Sue Darrah, resulted in divorce.

Mr. Shankwitz by no means took a wage from Make-a-Wish and remained an active-duty state trooper till 1996; he later labored for the state division of motor automobiles. He twice obtained the President’s Call to Service Award and was the topic of the 2019 biopic “Wish Man,” starring Andrew Steel as Mr. Shankwitz.

Mr. Shankwitz stepped down as president of the inspiration in 1984. But he remained its most seen ambassador for many years, touring the nation to advise chapters and meet with “want youngsters.”

“I get up daily with a ardour to make a distinction of their lives,” he wrote in his memoir. “It was as soon as sufficient for me to be a dad, a cowboy and a freeway patrol officer. But my vacation spot modified.”



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