The Make-A-Wish Foundation® was founded in 1980, when a 7-year-old boy named Chris Greicius wanted to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer. At the time, Chris had been battling leukemia. U.S. Customs Officer Tommy Austin became a friend of Chris and his mother. He’d promised Chris a ride in a police helicopter, but when Chris’s condition worsened, Austin contacted Ron Cox, an officer with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Together, they planned a day for Chris like none other.
On April 29, 1980, Austin and a corps of DPS personnel began Chris’s day with a helicopter tour of the city, then flew him to police headquarters. Three cruisers and a motorcycle officer met him for his meeting with DPS command, where Chris was sworn in as the first honorary DPS patrolman in state history.
They didn’t stop there. John’s Uniforms had agreed to make a custom-tailored DPS uniform for Chris. The owner and two seamstresses worked all night to finish it. Officers presented the official uniform to Chris on May 1 and arranged a motorcycle proficiency test so he could earn wings to pin on his uniform. Needless to say, Chris easily passed the test on his battery-operated toy motorcycle.
On May 2, Chris was back in the hospital. He asked to have the room arranged so he could see his uniform, his motorcycle helmet, and his “Smokey Bear”-style trooper’s hat. A DPS motor officer presented Chris with his motorcycle wings. His smile lit up the room. Chris passed away the next day. But not before he saw his dream come true and experienced the joy of receiving his wish.
Since then, the organization has grown into a global phenomenon, reaching more than a quarter million sick children around the world. The experience has a life-changing impact on the children, families, referral sources, donors, sponsors, and communities who participate.
Nearly 25,000 volunteers make it possible for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to remain steadfast in its mission. Volunteers serve as wish granters, fundraisers, special events assistants, and in numerous other capacities.
Referrals come from medical professionals, parents, and the children themselves. Children who are between the ages of two-and-a-half and 18 at the time of referral, and who have not received a wish from another wish-granting organization, may be eligible for a wish. A child’s medical eligibility is determined with the treating physician’s input. To be eligible, the child must be diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition: a progressive, degenerative, or malignant condition that has placed the child’s life in jeopardy.
An enthusiastic wish team then visits the child and learns their one true wish. These volunteers are passionate about connecting with wish children. They help the child explore their imaginations for the one experience that will bring the most delight. Wish granters create an unforgettable experience that enriches not just the lives of the children and their families, but sometimes the entire community.