#39 "Making a Wish"
When you think of a hero, what comes to mind? Wonder woman, military personnel, first responders. All of those are great images of heroes and easily recognizable by his or her uniform.
The hero of today’s Grounds of Change blog, Frank Shankwitz, certainly fits the image of a hero. He was an Arizona highway patrol officer who wore a badge and a cowboy hat, but I don’t think it was the uniform that made him a hero. I think it was his heart.
Today Frank is a hero to over half a million children across this world. However, the first of those half a million children was a little boy by the name of Chris Greicius. Chris was a seven-year-old boy who was fiercely battling leukemia when he met Frank.
Chris loved the television show Chips, a series about the adventures of two California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers, Ponch and Jon. Chris adored Ponch and Jon and dreamed of becoming a patrol motorcycle officer one day. In 1980, a friend of Chris’s family called and asked an Arizona police station if Chris could spend a day with a highway patrol officer. The officer ended up being our hero, Frank Shankwitz.
The Arizona police flew Chris to their station in a state police helicopter. When he arrived, Frank’s station made Chris an officer and supplied him with his own uniform, his own badge and his own cowboy hat. His wish had come true. Not long after, Frank was called into the commander's office to receive the news that they had lost their fellow officer, Chris Greicius. Frank flew to a little town in Illinois helping to give Chris a full police funeral.
Now this is the part of the story where Frank becomes a hero for the other 499,000 or so children across the world. After the funeral, on the plane ride back to Arizona, Frank and his fellow officers decided they could help make dreams come true for more kids who were battling life threatening illnesses.
Today, every 34 minutes a wish is granted worldwide. This occurs through Make-a-Wish (https://wish.org/), a nonprofit that grants life changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. That decision on the plane forty years ago is what makes Frank a hero to half a million children who got to live out their wish.
Children can wish to be, to give, to have, to go or to meet. The impact of a wish is so much more than becoming a model, getting a puppy, going to Disneyland or cooking with Gordon Ramsey. Most health professionals say when a wish comes true, it has the potential to be a positive turning point in the child’s battle for health. They are empowered to take back control of their lives and keep up the fight against their life threatening medical conditions.
The impact extends to the entire family. Families get to do something together that isn’t centered around all of the challenging aspects of their child's diagnosis. Mothers have exclaimed that they had never seen their little boy beam ear to ear like he did that day the wish came true. Doctors have shared that the girl who returns from her experience is a different kid. She’s full of life, full of energy, and so happy all the time.Frank’s uniform put him in the position to be a hero for Chris, but I believe it was Frank’s heart that put him in the position to change the world for so many other children.
In one of the most amazing moments I have had doing Grounds of Change, I got to ask the founder of the Make-A-Wish foundation what he would tell every seventeen year old out there.Frank Shankwitz’s would tell us all THAT WE CAN ALL BE HEREOS. Go answer the call - literally or figuratively! Be the hero this world needs!