An Arizona Highway Patrol officer was called back to headquarters one day in 1980 and told about a 7-year-old boy who wanted to be a motorcycle officer when he grew up. The boy had end-stage leukemia. A police helicopter picked up the boy at the hospital and took him to police headquarters, where Frank Shankwitz showed Chris Greicius his motorcycle and gave him a badge and a uniform. With other officers helping, Shankwitz later gave him the required driving test, which the boy passed in his yard, driving a small, battery-powered motorcycle. The next day, Chris went into a light coma, waking up long enough to ask Shankwitz: "Am I an official motorcycle cop now?" Shankwitz assured him that he was. Chris died that day. Within days, Shankwitz had made plans for Make-a-Wish Foundation. With 64 chapters in the US and 36 more around the world, the organization has granted the wishes of more than 500,000 critically ill children. Shankwitz died on Jan. 24 at his home in Prescott, Ariz., the New York Times reports, at age 77.
Shankwitz founded Make-a-Wish with five other people, including his wife, Kitty. He served as president of the foundation, without taking a salary, until 1984, though he still met the organization's "wish kids" after that, per the Times. The foundation has granted wishes including trips, eating in a restaurant, and meeting the pope. In 2013, thousands of people cheered as 5-year-old Miles Scott became BatKid for a day. Last month, per KXNB, Make-a-Wish installed a playroom in the home of a North Dakota girl whose mobility is restricted by her disease. A camper was delivered last month to a 12-year-old Indiana girl whose wish is to someday go camping with her family, per Fort Wayne's NBC. "I wake up every day with a passion to make a difference in their lives," Shankwitz wrote in his memoir. "It was once enough for me to be a dad, a cowboy and a highway patrol officer. But my destination changed." (Read more obituary stories.)