Marianas Variety Guam Edition – The Local and Regional Newspaper

12 23Fri09192014

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Back Local News Make-A-Wish founder visits Guam, thanks supporters

Make-A-Wish founder visits Guam, thanks supporters

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THIRTY-THREE years ago, Frank Shankwitz was a motorcycle police officer with the Arizona Highway Patrol when he was told about Chris, a 7-year-old leukemia patient with about two weeks left to live, whose heroes were Ponch and Jon from the TV police drama “CHiPS.”

“He always told his mom that he wanted to grow up to be like Ponch and Jon, a motorcycle officer,” Shankwitz said. “That was his wish.” Shankwitz, along with hospital employees and fellow police officers, secured the appropriate permissions, and had Chris picked up at the hospital in a police helicopter and flown to police headquarters. Shankwitz met him there with a motorcycle and Chris was installed as a Highway Patrolman complete with badge and uniform.

“Instead of a sick little boy, all of a sudden he’s got this energy and he’s running around like a typical 7-year-old,” Shankwitz said. Two days later Chris died, and Shankwitz traveled to Illinois where Chris was given a police funeral. On the way home, Shankwitz thought, “Why can’t we do this for other children?”

Within six months, the Make-A-Wish Foundation was started and its first wish was granted six months after that. “Now 33 years later, we’re 300,000 wishes worldwide,” Shankwitz said.

He and his wife, Kitty, who is a Make-A-Wish co-founder, are on Guam until Monday. On Saturday night, they will attend the Guam chapter Black Tie & Tennies Annual Gala at Hyatt Regency Guam. Shankwitz said he is amused by the unique dress code, but will opt to wear cowboy boots rather than tennis shoes. 

They are spending the rest of their time on Guam meeting media and thanking donors, “and especially the volunteers and the wish planners,” Shankwitz said. “This is all volunteers’ time to put this together to grant the wishes for the children.”

Choice

Corporate donors have a choice, Shankwitz said. “They can pick any charity they want,” he said. “But we have such integrity in our history and accountability and transparency. They can see where their dollars are going. This chapter and the majority maintain that very high level of 70 percent to 80 percent of every dollar that’s donated goes direct to that wish and to that child, keeping very low overhead costs and fundraising costs.”

The Guam chapter is unique, Shankwitz said. “If someone wants to go to Disneyland as a wish, look at the cost and the miles the family has to travel to go on that wish,” he said. “And these children aren’t feeling that well. But even on that long plane ride, I think that excitement builds up and carries them through.”

Kitty Shankwitz was a single civilian employee at the highway patrol when Frank Shankwitz organized the first wish for Chris. She was among the people he solicited to assist with that project and later became one of the original board members. “It’s about the parents for me,” she said. “Especially the moms; I don’t know how they survive going through this with the kids. I think they suffer probably more than the kids do. So it’s about trying to be helpful with them and comforting them.”

The couple thanked Hyatt Regency Guam and United Airlines for making the trip possible. They noted that they flew on a 787 Dreamliner from Denver to Narita on their way to Guam.

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