The Make-A-Wish Foundation® traces its beginning to one boy’s wish. In 1980, 7-year-old
was being treated for leukemia. Every day, he dreamed of becoming a police officer.
U.S. Customs Officer Tommy Austin had befriended Chris and his mother, Linda Bergendahl-Pauling. He also promised Chris a ride in a police helicopter. When Chris’ health worsened, Austin contacted Ron Cox, an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer, and planned a day that would lift Chris’ spirits.
On April 29, 1980, Austin and a caring group of DPS personnel started Chris’ day with a tour of the city in a department helicopter, which also flew him to headquarters. Three cruisers and a motorcycle officer greeted him before his meeting with the DPS command staff. There, Chris was sworn in as the first honorary DPS patrolman in state history.
But his experience didn’t stop there. Cox contacted John’s Uniforms, which agreed to make a custom-tailored DPS uniform for Chris. The store owner and two seamstresses worked through the night to finish it. The officers presented the official uniform to Chris on May 1 and arranged a motorcycle proficiency test so he could earn wings to pin on his uniform. Needless to say, Chris passed the test with flying colors on his battery-operated motorcycle.
On May 2, Chris was back in the hospital. He asked to arrange the room so he could always see his uniform, his motorcycle helmet and his “Smokey Bear”-style campaign hat. DPS motor officer Frank Shankwitz presented Chris with his motorcycle wings. He accepted them with a smile that lit up the room.
The following day, Chris passed away, but not before seeing his dream come true and experiencing the hope, strength and joy that came from receiving his wish.
Chris was to be buried in Kewanee, Ill. DPS spokesman Allan Schmidt promised that two Arizona officers would make the trip to Illinois to say goodbye to Chris. Scott Stahl, a DPS officer and Joliet, Ill., native, joined Frank Shankwitz on the poignant mission.
They saw how happy Chris was knowing his wish came true, and that the wish seemed to take some of Chris and Linda’s pain away – replacing the anguish with smiles and laughter. They thought that if one boy’s wish could create such happiness, maybe they could do the same for other children. They presented the plan to the people who helped grant Chris’ wish. Linda and others endorsed the plan. Thus, the Chris Greicius Make-A-Wish Memorial – which later became known as the Make-A-Wish Foundation – the largest wish-granting organization in the world.
What started out as making one child’s dream come true; today, Make-A-Wish had granted over 181 thousands wishes.
To make a donation go to Make-A-Wish.
Imperfect Action is better than No Action