Frank Shankwitz

by April from San Diego


Sirens wailed and tires screeched as a group of motorcycles pulled up at the hospital. Police officers piled out and rushed into a room, where seven-year-old leukemia patient Chris Greicius was residing, stuck in a coma and on the verge of death. A custom-made uniform was hanging by the boy's bed, identical to the one of a Highway Patrol Motorcycle Officer - except for one missing item. Silently, one of the police officers came forward and pinned a pair of Motorcycle Wings onto the uniform. Just as the wings were attached, the boy miraculously came out of his coma and asked, "Am I a motorcycle officer now?" The policeman replied, "Yes you are, Chris." Greicius broke into a smile. He spent the next couple of hours in happiness before he passed away ("Make a Wish Co-Founder, Frank Shankwitz"). The police officer that presented Greicius with his wings was no other than the founder of Make-A-Wish Foundation, Frank Shankwitz. When Shankwitz was very young, his parents divorced. In order to support his mother, Shankwitz started working full time as a dishwasher at the age of ten ("WhyGiveBack"). In 1972, he began his career as a highway patrol officer with the Arizona Department of Public Safety in the city of Yuma ("About"). Three years later, he was transferred to the Phoenix area to join a Motorcycle Tactical Unit, where he heard about Chris Greicius' wish to become a Highway Patrol Motorcycle Officer. Shankwitz worked with fellow policemen to grant Greicius' wish in the final weeks of his life (Kim Hanna). Reflecting on how he helped the little boy, Shankwitz seized the chance to reach out and brighten the lives of even more children. Guided by his firm belief in giving back to the community, Shankwitz sacrificed much of his time and effort to create Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization designated toward granting the wishes of kids with life-threatening diseases. Throughout the years, Frank Shankwitz held onto his ideals and never lost grip of his mission.  Thanks to Frank Shankwitz's altruistic vision, humble and passionate character, and tenacity toward reaching his goals, thousands of children and their families worldwide lead happier, more satisfying lives.

Shankwitz lets Chris Greicius sit on his motorcycle ( ())
Shankwitz lets Chris Greicius sit on his motorcycle ( ())

Frank Shankwitz's altruistic dream drove him to act for a better future for others. As an Arizona Highway Patrol officer, Shankwitz's contributions helped Chris Greicius realize his dream before he passed away, giving him happiness despite his pain as a leukemia patient. Shankwitz recalls: "Chris passed away a few days after we granted his wish. After his passing, I couldn't stop thinking of how happy Chris and his mother were during and after his wish. I knew that this happiness needed to be spread to other children with life-threatening illnesses, so I became involved with helping to start a nonprofit foundation that would make their wishes become true" (Shankwitz and Sparks xii). After witnessing a young child deteriorate in his final days, most people would fall into a state of depression, but not Shankwitz. Instead, he moved beyond grief and sorrow and contemplated the radiant moments of Greicius' life. Reflecting upon the joy Greicius experienced as a result of granting a wish, Frank was determined to offer the same opportunities to other children like Greicius. His selfless drive gave him the idea to start Make-A-Wish Foundation. Hoping to spread his vision, Shankwitz led Make-A-Wish to expand across the nation and eventually the world.  "With its national office located in Phoenix, now the Make-A-Wish Foundation is the largest nonprofit wish granting organization in the world, granting a wish in the U.S. every 40 minutes...There are 64 Make-A-Wish chapters in over 36 countries worldwide. Throughout the world, Make-A-Wish Foundation International can be found" (Kim Hanna). As one of the driving forces of Make-A-Wish Foundation, Shankwitz pursued his ambitious and philanthropic goal of transforming what started as granting a wish from a seven-year-old boy into changing the lives of children a wish at a time, every 40 minutes. His devotion toward helping mankind provided him with the confidence to dream big. Shankwitz wanted to reach out to as many children as possible, and he took responsibility to make sure he achieved his mission. Because Shankwitz dedicated his actions toward improving the lives of others, he was able to make the future he foresaw become reality.

Frank Shankwitz's humble ideals and his unrelenting passion guided him and made him stand out amongst others. Shankwitz developed a love for working with children early in his life. After working in Yuma, he "was transferred to the Phoenix area to be part of a new 10-man Motorcycle Tactical Unit designed for work throughout the state. For the next 10 years, whenever assigned to small towns, Frank would visit local grade schools and talk about bicycle safety and let the children sit on his motorcycle" ("About"). In a society where most people work just to support themselves, Shankwitz took the time to visit kids and teach them about being a policeman, even though it was not part of his job; this humility set him apart from the vast majority. Shankwitz was passionate about his occupation, and he wanted children to be able to experience the same kind of excitement and honor he felt as an officer. His constant involvement with the community went beyond the expected actions of an average policeman, and it earned him the respect of people around him. After taking charge of Make-A-Wish, Frank Shankwitz still maintained a modest mindset. "As the first President/CEO, he was unwilling to take any salary from the Make-A-Wish organization, [and] he said, 'I just didn't think it was right to take a CEO salary while I was a police officer asking for donations.' From 1980 until 1983, all of the donations collected went directly to granting wishes" (Kim Hanna). Even though he would have earned a huge amount of money, Shankwitz decided to refrain from accepting a salary, demonstrating that he prioritized other's needs over his own. Guided by his enthusiasm for helping others, Shanwitz's sole purpose as CEO was to raise as much money as possible to grant wishes. Shankwitz's success was not measured by the amount of money he acquired, but rather by the rare characteristics he possessed. Shankwitz's community interactions and his unwillingness to take a salary prove that he is a man with a force worth reckoning; his humility and his outstanding dedication toward his work make him worthy of the admiration and envy of others. 

A large aspect that makes Frank Shankwitz a deserving role model is his tenacity toward achieving his goals. For the last 30 years, Shankwitz has been constantly engaged with Make-A-Wish Foundation. Although he resigned from the CEO position, "Frank continues to work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a Wish Ambassador for the national office and as a key-note speaker at fund-raising events for state chapters throughout the United States. Frank was also Chair-Elect on the former Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northern Arizona chapter, a board member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona chapter, and an Honorary Board Member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota chapter. Frank continues to work with the Make-A-Wish children as a volunteer and 'Wish Granter'" ("Frank Shankwitz"). Instead of staying put and entrusting other people to run Make-A-Wish, Shankwitz actively traveled throughout the country to ensure the progress and success of the foundation he created. Shankwitz's various positions across the nation prove that he is a steadfast achiever. He takes the initiative to get things done, and he never loses grip of his belief of helping the community. In addition to Make-A-Wish Foundation, Shankwitz is also involved in other philanthropic activities. "For over two years Frank has been developing a new foundation, The Wish Riders Foundation, as well as the Wish Riders television show! Frank said, 'The new TV show, which is currently being produced for network television, will highlight similar acts of inspirational kindness towards others, such as we did for Chris, especially by members of the biker community'"(Kim Hanna). Frank did not limit his career to leading Make-A-Wish Foundation. Believing that Make-A-Wish Foundation did not fully convey the necessity for selflessness in society, Shankwitz decided to produce a new foundation to further provide inspiration to others. At the same time, Shankwitz, once a devoted motorcycle officer himself, also resolved to break stereotypes against bikers and reveal the actual kindness and philanthropy bikers harbored beneath their tough appearances. Through his TV show, Shankwitz showcases the benevolence and compassion he experienced amongst bikers as an example for others to follow. The creation of the Wish Riders Foundation proves Shankwitz's commitment toward sharing the power of altruism throughout the world. Through his mission to improve humanity, Frank Shankwitz never gave up or stopped working for what he believed in; his tenacity inspires others to think about ways they can contribute toward their own community.

Frank Shankwitz utilized his selfless drive, humble character, and steadfast grip on his goals to pursue his passion of making the world a better place. After granting the wish of Chris Greicius, Shankwitz knew he was capable of contributing so much more to society. He visualized a way to reconnect children with their families and allow them to temporarily forget the pains and burdens of their medical conditions by creating the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Shankwitz was modest and enthusiastic about his work. He often went the extra mile to be more involved with the community, and he gave up his CEO salary so that more wishes could be granted. Since 1980 until the present, Shankwitz has been devoted toward making sure Make-A-Wish Foundation reaches its full potential, and he even started a new foundation to further promote altruism. Frank Shankwitz's accomplishments are proof that there is always a way to benefit the community. His dedication and ambition inspires others to constantly search for opportunities to lend a hand to people in need. Shankwitz's story taught me that a small act of kindness goes a long way. It could just make a person's day, or it could greatly affect a person's life. In Frank Shankwitz's case, granting the simple wish of a seven-year-old boy resulted in the creation of one of the largest nonprofit charities in the world. As Linda Pauling, mother of Chris, stated: "It's been more than 30 years since my son Chris received his wish, and I am still amazed and inspired how one little boy's dream to be a policeman has touched the lives of so many thousands of people" ("How It All Started").

Works Cited

"About." Inspirational and Motivational Speaker Frank Shankwitz. Inspirational and                             

Motivational Speaker Frank Shankwitz, 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2014. <>.

"Frank Shankwitz." BeforeTheyGoâ„¢-. BeforeTheyGo Inc., 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.

Hanna, Kim. "Make-A-Wish Foundation." Arizona Centennial. Arizona Centennial 2012 Foundation, 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2014. <>

"How It All Started." Make-A-Wish® America. Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, 2006. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.

"John Hersey Leadership Blog." John Hersey Leadership Blog RSS. John Hersey Inc., 2009. Web. 23 Mar. 2014. <>.

Make A Wish Co-Founder, Frank Shankwitz. Perf. Frank Shankwitz, Greg S. Reid. YouTube, 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Sparks, Rachelle, and Frank Shankwitz. Once Upon a Wish: True Inspirational Stories of Make-A-Wish Children. Dallas: BenBella, 2013. Print.


WhyGiveBack. Perf. Frank Shankwitz. YouTube, 05 June 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Page created on 7/21/2015 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 1/5/2017 4:26:05 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Make-A-Wish Foundation Official Website - Make-A-Wish is devoted toward granting wishes to children with life-threatening diseases
Frank Shankwitz Interview with Greg Reid - Shankwitz shares his experience with Chris Greicius
Frank Shankwitz YouTube Video - Shankwitz talks about his motivation to create Make-A-Wish

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