guys. I had no idea what to expect.This little boy had been on IVs. I thought paramedics were going to have to help him. Instead, a little boy in red sneakers popped out the helicopter door and introduced himself. He gave me a high five, and asked to get on my motorcycle. He was fascinated with it. He had watched CHiPs so much that he knew every button and switch on that motorcycle. This is the siren, this is the red lights, this is the warning lights. I kept watching Chris, thinking that he knows he has only a couple weeks to live, and he is running around like a typical seven- year-old.Then I started wondering what else we could do for him. That day, he became the first and only honorary highway patrol officer in the history of the Arizona Highway Patrol, complete with his own badge and certificate making him a full police officer. His doctor pronounced his vitals as good,
He said, “I want to be a motorcycle officer. How can I do that?” I said that it was a shame he didn’t have a motorcycle, because we’d test him with traffic cones in the driveway. Chris ran into the house and rode out on a little battery-operated motorcycle that his mother had gotten for him in place of a wheelchair. Soon enough, he had on aviator sunglasses like the motorcycle officers wear, and he went through the test and passed. He was fascinated by the wings on my uniform, and asked when he could get his. I told him that I would order them right away and they would probably take a day or two. Chris got to stay home again that day. The doctor came to the house and didn’t understand it but, again, his vitals were good. I ordered the motorcycle wings, and I picked them up the next day. But by then, Chris was in the hospital in a coma, and probably not going to survive the day. I went to the hospital and, as I pinned the motorcycle wings on his
him a full police funeral. We were joined by Illinois State Police, county and city police, and Chris was buried in uniform. His gravestone reads, “Chris, Arizona Trooper.” But flying home, I started thinking: this little boy had a wish and we made it happen. Why can’t we do that for other children? The idea for the Make-A-Wish Foundation was born at 36,000 feet. Ballou: This wouldn’t have happened if you had not done something. You got it done, influenced a huge number of people, and started this foundation, which is really a movement to honor those children who are terminally ill and have a wish. When I had a camera store in St. Petersburg, Florida, some of my friends who were part of Make-A-Wish said there was a child dying who wanted to be a photographer. We made that happen. There was no question about whether we wanted to do it. We just wanted to know when. Shankwitz: Yes. I had an idea, but it took a lot of people to make it work. The most difficult thing in the beginning was finding people who believed in the same idea. Several of the officers and people who met Chris thought it would never work. The Arizona Corporation Commission requires a five-member board with a president, a vice president, and three other board members for a foundation, and it took about two months to find four other people. As you said, I was a full-time police officer, usually a vocation of 60 hours per week.This was before the days of the Internet. I spent a lot of off-duty time in the library researching how to start a nonprofit, but we finally figured it out. A friend who is an attorney, and another friend who is a CPA, helped me put it together. It only took six months to receive our 501(c)(3). Make-A-Wish has generated revenue in order to do good things. We tend to think of profits only as money, but there are other ways people benefit from this. What went on from there? You established this initiative while you had a full-time job with the police, right?
so he went home that night instead of back to the hospital. But we knew the highway patrolman needed a uniform, so two ladies at the local uniform shop spent all night making a custom uniform for Chris. The next day, I led a procession of motorcycles and highway patrol cars to his home. The neighbors were wondering what was going on.Chris came running out, and we presented him with his uniform. Chris was ecstatic. He ran in, changed right away, and came strutting out with his uniform and the Smoky Bear hat that we gave him. He was proud as can be.
uniform which was hanging by his bed, Chris came out of the coma. He looked at me, looked at his uniform, and asked with a big smile on his face, “Am I an official motorcycle officer now?” I told him he was. I handed him his uniform, and he touched the wings, giggling a little bit, and showed them to his mother. A couple of hours later, he passed away. I like to think those wings helped carry him to heaven. We had lost a fellow officer as far as we were concerned. Another officer and I went to the little town of Kewanee, Illinois, and gave
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