Frank Shankwitz

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Frank Shankwitz
Known forCo-founder of Make-A-Wish Foundation

Frank Shankwitz is the co-founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation[1][2][3] he has received the President's Call to Service Award, the Making a Difference in the World, the Making a World of Difference and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor awards.[4][5][6] In 2019, a documentary film was made, telling the story of Shankwitz, his life and his foundation.

Early life[edit]

Raised in northern Arizona, Shankwitz attended grade school in Seligman, and junior high and high school in Prescott, graduating from Prescott High School in 1961. Shankwitz graduated from Phoenix College in 1970, with continuing education at Arizona Western College and Arizona State University. Following high school, Shankwitz enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, was stationed in England, and received an Honorable Discharge in 1965. Upon returning home, Shankwitz was employed by Motorola for seven years.


In 1972, Shankwitz began his career with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, assigned to the Arizona Highway Patrol as a car officer in the Yuma area where Shankwitz's interest in working with children began as a coach for the Special Olympics program.

In 1975, Shankwitz was transferred to the Phoenix area to be part of a new 10-man Motorcycle Tactical Unit designed to work throughout the state. For the next 7 years, whenever assigned to small towns, Shankwitz would visit local grade schools and talk about bicycle safety and let the children sit on his motorcycle.

Shankwitz was one of the primary officers from the Arizona Highway Patrol who was responsible for granting the "wish" of a 7-year-old boy with leukemia who wanted to be a Highway Patrol Motorcycle Officer like his heroes, Ponch and Jon from the television show, CHiPs.[7] The boy (referenced as Chris) was made the first and only Honorary Arizona Highway Patrol Officer in the history of the Arizona Highway Patrol, complete with a custom made uniform, badge, and Motor Officer Wings. Chris succumbed to his illness a few days after receiving his "wish", and was buried with full police honors in Kewanee, Illinois, with Shankwitz leading the police funeral procession. Chris was the inspiration for Shankwitz's idea to start a non-profit foundation that would let children "make-a-wish" and have it come true.[8]

Shankwitz retired as a homicide detective from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, returned as a sworn Reserve Detective, assigned to the Prescott Police Department's Cold Case Homicide Unit, and is a member of the Yavapai County Mounted Sheriff's Posse.

Make-A-Wish Foundation[edit]

Shankwitz, along with his wife Kitty and several others, founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 1980, with Shankwitz being the first President/CEO. Thirty-four years later, in 2014, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has grown to 64 chapters in the United States, 36 International chapters, covering 5 continents, and has granted over 300,000 wishes worldwide, with a wish being granted somewhere in the world on an average of every 38 minutes. Shankwitz continues to work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a Wish Ambassador and key-note speaker at a fund-raising event for chapters throughout the United States, as well as a former board member of the Arizona chapter. Shankwitz and his wife Kitty are still volunteers and wish-granters for the foundation.[9]

In 2004, Shankwitz received The President's Call To Service Award from President George W. Bush for service and civic participation, and recognition and appreciation for the commitment to strengthen our Nation and for making a difference through volunteer service.

In 2010, Shankwitz received the Tempe, Arizona Sister Cities "Making A World of Difference" award.[10]

In 2010, Shankwitz was featured in Brad Meltzer's book, "Heroes For My Son", identified as one of the 52 people who have made a difference in the world.[11]

Shankwitz has been featured in USA Weekend Magazine,[12] The Huffington Post,[13] and other publications.

In 2013, Shankwitz co-authored with Rachelle Sparks the book, "Once Upon A Wish" ISBN 9781937856120, published by BenBella Books, Inc. Shankwitz has been featured in Greg Reid's, "Universal Wish" and Lisa Heidinger's, "Wishes In Flight".[14]

In 2017, BBC Outlook Weekend interviewed Shankwitz about surviving his own challenging childhood, developing his philosophy of giving back, his brush with death, and his work, mentioning the film about his life that was released in 2019, Wish Man.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Shankwitz and his wife Kitty reside in Prescott, Arizona. His two adult daughters, three grandchildren, and one great-grandson reside in Ohio.


  1. ^ "Shankwitz Ranks Among the Greatest in History". Headline News Makers. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  2. ^ "How It All Started". Make-a-Wish Foundation. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  3. ^ Hanna, Kim. "MAKE-A-WISH FOUNDATION". Az 100 Years. Archived from the original on March 14, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  4. ^ Hittle, Arlene (May 7, 2015). "Make-a-Wish founder to receive Ellis Island Medal of Honor". Daily Courrier. Archived from the original on October 12, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  5. ^ "New book fulfills vision of Make A Wish co-founder Shankwitz". The Daily Courier. March 25, 2013. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  6. ^ "The first wish". The Star. Archived from the original on February 17, 2017. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  7. ^ "Make-A-Wish founder recalls 1st wish". Tucson Citizen. September 22, 2003. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  8. ^ Roach, Sean (September 18, 2010). "Make-A-Wish Founders Visit Tarrytown". Patch Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow, New York. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  9. ^ Holland, Catherine (April 29, 2010). "World Wish Day celebrates Make-a-Wish and Arizona roots". Az Family. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  10. ^ "Making A World of Difference: The 2010 honorees". Tempe Sister Cities News. 2010. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  11. ^ "In 'Heroes' From The Past, Lessons For A Son". Author Interviews. NPR. May 11, 2010. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  12. ^ "Inspire your kids with stories of heroes". USA Weekend. Archived from the original on September 22, 2014. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  13. ^ "The Story Of Frank 'Bopsy' Salazar, Make-A-Wish's First Wish Kid, Will Stay With You Forever". Huffington Post. November 1, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  14. ^ "Standing in the pavilion at Jennings Beach on Saturday". News Times. 2010. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  15. ^ Kennedy, Andrea (October 26, 2019). "The making of the 'Wish Man'". BBC Radio Outlook Weekend. Retrieved October 27, 2019.

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