Frank Shankwitz, an Arizona Highway Patrol officer who helped make terminally ill children’s last wishes come true through his charity foundation, died Jan. 24 at his home in Prescott, Ariz. He was 77. His wife, Kitty Shankwitz, said the cause was esophageal cancer.
The Make-a-Wish Foundation has had great support from Hollywood, from Disney setting up trips to Disneyland to movie stars doing meet and greets with kids. It all started with Shankwitz’s vision after a particular encounter.
Shankwitz was on patrol in April 1980 when he was alerted about a young boy who wanted to be a motorcycle officer when he grew up. The child had end-stage leukemia. Shankwitz’s visit made the child’s dying wish come true.
After that, Shankwitz realized he could help other children with their last requests. He and five other people founded the Make-a-Wish Foundation in 1980 It become a national organization with 64 chapters nationwide.
Shankwitz never took a salary from Make-a-Wish, and stepped down as its president in 1984. He remained an active-duty Arizona state trooper until 1996 and later worked for the state Department of Motor Vehicles. He received the President’s Call to Service Award twice and was spotlighted in the 2019 biopic, Wish Man.
Survivors include his wife, Kitty; two daughters, Christine Chester and Denise Partlow; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
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