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Frank Shankwitz (1943–2021), Make-A-Wish Foundation cofounder

by Linnea Crowther

Frank Shankwitz was a former Arizona Highway Patrol officer who co-founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Making wishes come true

Shankwitz had been working for the Arizona Highway Patrol for eight years when a fellow officer met Chris Greicius, a 7-year-old boy with leukemia. Wanting to raise the boy’s spirits as he fought his illness, Officer Tom Austin and Shankwitz arranged for him to become an honorary officer of the Highway Patrol, complete with a custom uniform and badge, as well as a police helicopter ride-along. Greicius died later that spring, but Shankwitz had been inspired by the experience.

Shankwitz, his wife Kitty, and others went on to found the Make-A-Wish Foundation that same year. Shankwitz became the non-profit’s first president and CEO and helped grow Make-A-Wish to an international organization with hundreds of thousands of wishes granted to children with critical illnesses. He remained involved with Make-A-Wish as a Wish Ambassador after stepping down from the board, and he was honored by President George W. Bush with the President’s Call to Service Award in 2004. The 2019 film “Wish Man” told the story of Shankwitz’s work with Greicius and creation of Make-A-Wish.

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Notable quote

“Be kind. When somebody needs help, try to help them. Everyone can be a hero. You don’t have to have money to help. You can give your time. Kitty and I live on retirements, but we are able to give a lot of our time to help people out.” —from a 2019 interview with Prescott Living magazine

Tributes to Frank Shankwitz

Full obituary: KHOU

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