The First Wish: Christopher James Greicius
All his life, Christopher James Greicius dreamed of becoming a police officer. In his eyes, the police represented strength, power, and the goodness in life. Chris' dream meant more than anything to him, but even he couldn't have known that his wish would serve as the inspiration for the largest wish-granting organization in the world.
Chris and his mother Linda had become friends with U.S. Customs Officer Tommy Austin in 1977. The first time Chris met Tommy, Chris displayed his law enforcement skills by telling him, "Freeze, I'm a cop!" An instant friendship was created. Tommy had promised Chris a ride in a police helicopter, and in the spring of 1980 – when Chris' condition worsened – Tommy contacted Officer Ron Cox at the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) about making Chris' wish come true. Ron was more than eager to oblige, and he recruited other DPS members to create a magical experience for Chris.
April 29, 1980, was Chris' special day – when Chris' wish was granted. He called Tommy early in the morning and reminded him. "You haven't forgotten? I've been up for an hour and I'm ready to go." Ron arranged for a DPS helicopter to pick up Chris and escort him around the city of Phoenix, landing at the DPS. Three squad cars and a motorcycle ridden by Officer Frank Shankwitz welcomed their new friend. This 7-year-old bundle of energy immediately greeted Frank and told him how "neato" his motorcycle was; however, he passed on a ride, citing a lack of doors as his primary reason.
Chris was known as the "Bubble Gum Trooper" among his law enforcement buddies. He went nowhere without his trusty bubble gum. He even took time out of his busy day to share a pack of bubble gum with the director of DPS. To top off what had already been an incredible day for this little dynamo, he was sworn in as the first ever and only honorary state trooper in Arizona history.
The following day Ron contacted John's Uniforms, the company responsible for making the highway patrol uniforms, about making a uniform for Chris. The company was so moved by Chris' wish that it decided to get involved in adding to his wish experience. The owner and two seamstresses worked all night to custom tailor a highway patrolman uniform for Chris. On May 1st, several officers presented Chris, whose illness had taken a turn for the worse, with an official Arizona Highway Patrol uniform.
Chris had been fascinated by the motorcycle wings Frank wore on his uniform, and Frank explained that Chris needed to pass a motorcycle proficiency test before the wings could be presented to him. The officers set up a motorcycle course where Chris could take his test on his battery-operated motorcycle. Needless to say, Chris passed with flying colors.
On May 2, 1980, Chris was back in the hospital. He was so proud and happy about being a patrolman that he asked that his uniform be hung in the window of his room and his motorcycle helmet and "Smokey the Bear" hat be placed on his dresser so he could see them. To make Chris' wish even more complete, Frank ordered a set of uniform motorcycle wings. With Linda's blessing, Frank presented Chris with the wings. Chris' smile lit up the room. The following day, Chris Greicius passed away, but not before having realized his greatest dream.
"There must be other children out there"
Chris was to be buried in Kewanee, Illinois. DPS spokesman Allen Schmidt promised that two Arizona officers would make the trip to Illinois to say goodbye to Chris. Scott Stahl, a DPS officer and a native of Joliet, Illinois, joined Frank Shankwitz on the sad mission.
On the flight back to Arizona, Frank and Scott were reflecting on Chris' magical experience. 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 be granted, maybe the same could be done for other children. At that moment, the idea of the Make-A-Wish Foundation® was born.
Upon returning to Phoenix, the idea of granting wishes to other ill children was presented to many of the people that were integral in granting 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® – was born.
The First Wish in Canada
The first Make-A-Wish® Canadian Chapter was established in B.C. in 1983 after Nigel Brown and Robb Lucy saw a news item about the launch of Make-A-Wish in the United States. So enthusiastic about making wishes come true for children in Canada, Nigel and Robb established a small committee of friends, got permission to use the Make-A-Wish name, and set out to grant their first wish.
Vancouver Children’s Hospital referred Nigel and Robb to a 13-year old girl named Debbie, with leukemia, who wished to visit her grandparents in Germany. Nigel paid for Debbie’s trip with his personal credit card and in August, 1983 Debbie and her family went on her wish.
She and her family had a wonderful time re-connecting with one another in Germany. A few months following her return to Canada, Debbie passed away. With the heart-warming completion of their first wish, the small group of friends recruited more friends and soon the first Chapter of Make-A-Wish® in Canada was off and running.
Today, thousands of wishes have been granted to children across Canada. Since 1983, regional Chapters have been established in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, London, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax.