Loss of a Hero: Frank Shankwitz

by Ray Newton

Because of one man, Frank Shankwitz, who founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation with his wife Kitty and dedicated colleagues on the Arizona Highway Patrol, almost a half-million children throughout the world have benefitted from his inspired belief in helping others.

Shankwitz, 77, died Jan. 24, 2021. He had been a Prescott resident since his retirement.

A Prescott High School graduate, Shankwitz was an Air Force veteran. He later had a 42-year career as a member of the Arizona Department of Public Safety as a motorcycle patrol officer.

That led to his unwittingly becoming a hero for thousands.

As a patrolman in 1980, he met 7-year-old Chris Greicius, a Scottsdale youngster with terminal leukemia. Chris told Shankwitz: “I wish I could be a motorcycle cop.” 

Shankwitz took that wish to his superiors. A few days later, Chris was made an honorary officer in the Arizona Highway Patrol, complete with a custom-made uniform and badge. Chris died a few days later, but Shankwitz was inspired by how making that wish come true had affected the boy.

That led to Shankwitz, his wife and others founding the now-worldwide Make-A-Wish Foundation. He was the nonprofit group’s first president and CEO. He helped turn the Make-A-Wish Foundation into what is now an organization operating in five continents, giving children with life-threatening illnesses their “wish.”

Shankwitz was honored by former presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump with the President’s White House Call to Service Award. This is one of dozens of recognitions he received.

In 2019, a movie — Wish Man — told the story of his meeting with Chris and the creation of Make-A-Wish.

 The Arizona Department of Public Safety issued a statement mourning the loss of Shankwitz. It said in part: “He was dedicated to AZDPS and Arizona families and children.”