I want to tell you a story. In February of 1979, a 7-year-old named Chris Grecius, of Scottsdale, Arizona, found out he had leukemia.
It was the end of the world. No, it was worse than that. It felt like the end of a family. Chris’s mother was devastated.
In the late 1970s, there weren’t many kids coming back from the L-word. Chris was informed that he was dying. It was a living nightmare.
One fateful day, Chris casually remarked to his mother that he wished he could have grown up to become a policeman. For a parent, the news was a knife to the gut.
Chris’s wish was common knowledge, of course. Anyone who knew little Chris, knew that he liked to dress up as a cop and run around the backyard, chasing bad guys, occasionally shouting, “FREEZE!” to neighborhood dogs and various woodland creatures.
But something about this was different. Chris was making an official request.
News of Chris’s interest in the police department spread. In those days, Scottsdale was, essentially, a big small town, so word got around pretty quickly.
When Chris was hospitalized, a family friend spoke with Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Ron Cox, and the department launched a plan to make Chris’s wish come true.
Lt. Col. Dick Schaefer of the DPS got involved. He gave Chris a campaign hat, like state troopers wear. He polished one of his old badges and pinned it to Chris’s chest. Then, he officially swore Chris in as Arizona’s first and only honorary 7-year-old peace officer.
The police department didn’t stop there. Someone gave Chris a helicopter tour of Phoenix. Chris got to drive a police car. The officers let him talk on the radio.
But the icing on the proverbial cake was when the officers commissioned an official police uniform for Chris. They delivered this uniform to Chris at the hospital that spring, and they made a big deal about it. Lots of pomp. The officers marched into the hospital as though they were attending a typical papal installation.
Chris wore the uniform in his hospital bed. He wouldn’t take it off. Two days later, Chris died.
And something happened in that ordinary Arizona city. A foundation was accidentally born by Chris’s mother. She called it “Make-A-Wish.”
The first official Make-A-Wish recipient was Frank “Bopsy” Salazar.
Frank was barely 5 years old when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He was the child of a single mom. His mother checked her son into the hospital even though they didn’t have health insurance.
One day, Chris’s mom met Frank’s mom. Words were exchanged. Tears were shed.
Frank’s mom remembers:
“She told me that instead of letting kids just feel sorry for themselves, she wanted to grant wishes, to do something every kid would benefit from, to fulfill their dream while they’re still a part of this world.”
When they sat Frank down and asked his final wish, he said his wish was to be a fireman. No, wait, he wanted to go to Disneyland. No, wait. He wanted to ride in a hot air balloon. No wait…
Make-A-Wish didn’t make Frank choose a singular wish. They pulled out the stops. They did it all.
The Phoenix Fire Department arrived at Frank’s hospital, they found his hospital-room window and pulled the truck up to the curb. They extended the truck’s enormous ladder. A horde of firemen entered Frank’s room through the window, one by one.
They made Frank a member of the Engine 9 fire crew. They rode him around in the truck. Frank rang the bell, used the hose, wore the hat.
When Frank asked if this meant he was a real firefighter, the team of public servants gathered around him and just held him.
“Yes,” they said.
The Anaheim Fire Department stepped in and took Frank and his family around Southern California on a personal tour. Later, Frank got to hug Mickey Mouse. And he got his balloon ride.
Since then, Make-A-Wish has granted more than 550,000 wishes in 50 countries.
Here’s something else you might not know: Every 3 minutes in this world, a family will hear that their child has cancer. Every 6 minutes, one kid dies from pediatric cancer.
And every 38 seconds, somewhere in this vast, indifferent world, a wish is granted to a child in need by the Make-A-Wish organization.
It’s important to note here that I am not affiliated with Make-A-Wish Foundation in any way, shape, or form.
But I wish like heck that I were.
Pubert Earle Bozemann - February 26, 2023 7:27 am
Wow Pone, 3 childhood cancer stories back to back are hard to take! But they did shine a lot of light on the Make a Wish Foundation, so I guess I can take it. BTW I didn’t think you meant any real disrespect to the Southern Baptists ie you were just kidding, so I hope they can forgive you. Everybody does a blooper every now and then! (Between you and me, I would avoid jokes about them in the future!)
Nita Wright - February 26, 2023 11:10 am
What a great story about folks who make a difference!
Dolores - February 26, 2023 11:23 am
The Dream Foundation does the same for adults with later-stage terminal illnesses. Recipients and their families have lower depression and anxiety levels, and focus less on their physical limitations, loss of control. A precious respite for both.
If you research the most common requests for both foundations it’s most often ‘doing’ something over acquiring something. Because memories are the most valuable things you leave behind.
Friends and families often quietly grant last wishes too; often simple with less fanfare. My brother’s hunting buddies took him to ‘their’ woods one last time. If they’d waited any longer he wouldn’t have had the strength for the excursion. David was an avid hunter and was more at home and at peace in the wilderness even if he wasn’t hunting. Stories were exchanged with much laughter, you can’t put a value on such things.
Sandy Bailey - February 26, 2023 11:24 am
Our son was 5 when he had leukemia, Make a Wish was there for him, by the grace of God he survived. Our daughter later had leukemia, she was 47 she died a year later.
Tmitsss - February 26, 2023 12:30 pm
Just in case you have been living under a news blackout https://www.forbes.com/sites/dereksaul/2023/02/15/billionaire-michael-jordan-gifts-10-million-to-make-a-wish/?sh=3f717a14129d
Robin - February 26, 2023 12:32 pm
We were a recipient of one of these wishes and I can guarantee you that this organization is awesome!
Jane Lemley - February 26, 2023 1:00 pm
What a wonderful tale of hope for so many children. To Make A Wish come true. To bring so much joy to a child in a world that seems so cruel. Thank you to all who are part of this organization.
Jan - February 26, 2023 1:23 pm
Linda Lewis - February 26, 2023 1:29 pm
Thank you for reminding me about this wonderful organization.Make-A-Wish Foundation really blesses the families of very ill children. I appreciate your showcasing this organization.
Becky Fuller - February 26, 2023 1:30 pm
My nephew had cancer and was a recipient of Make-A-Wish. What joy they give to these kids and to their families💞
Patricia Gibson - February 26, 2023 2:09 pm
It is a tremendous organization 🙏
William - February 26, 2023 2:11 pm
Sean, you have a wonderful gift. You have written many wonderful articles.
I put this one about. Make a wish at the top of my list. It shows why so many donate to this fine organization. I hope your comments will increase donations. Spread the word make a donation today, there are children that may not see tomorrow.
Debbie g - February 26, 2023 2:14 pm
Beautiful Sean Thank you for your amazing uplifting stories
And your picture of the make a wish dandelion flower. Awesome
Love to all
Lynne Pickens - February 26, 2023 2:19 pm
A cousin of mine was the recipient of a gift from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Her story had a happy ending. She survived, thrived and is now an elementary school teacher, giving children the gift of her knowledge and experience.
Livy A - February 26, 2023 3:19 pm
And Birmingham has its own “Magic Moments” that does the same!❤️🩹 Wonderful organizations!💜💕❣️❤️
Julie Burrus - February 26, 2023 3:54 pm
Wow… just simply Wow! Thank you so much for sharing that story!!
Kathy Smith - February 26, 2023 4:25 pm
My neighbors’ son was diagnosed with Leukemia when he was 7. Thankfully he was treated at the St. Jude Childrens Hospital in Peoria, IL. He is now a healthy 12 year old and playing all the sports that he loves. He was also a recipient of Make-A-Wish. That is a wonderful organization!
Megan Brewer - February 26, 2023 4:40 pm
Make A Wish granted my grandson a trip to DisneyWorld while he was battling neuroblastoma. Today he is cancer free and full of wonderful memories!
Karen - February 26, 2023 5:14 pm
Thank you for sharing the origin of Make-a-Wish. So many children have been blessed by this group.
Arnold Kring - February 26, 2023 5:14 pm
You might want to check with Penn State University’s THON fund raiser for child hood cancer research via Hershey Medical School. The students raised over $16 million this year.
Charles Farrell - February 26, 2023 5:52 pm
It all started with one little desire to be A policeman mushroomed then ballooned for so many. There is truly hope for humanity.
Dee Thompson - February 26, 2023 6:16 pm
Awesome column, Sean. I hope people donate to Make-A-Wish because this is how people’s hearts are moved, by a vivid story of beauty and grace, even if the ending is bittersweet. Your column reminds me every morning that in spite of all the negativity in most of the words on the internet, your column is an oasis of kindness. Beauty IS all around, if only we will look for it. [My latest blog explores that… https://deescribbler.typepad.com/my_weblog/2023/02/to-know-the-place.html%5D
Charlie Simon - February 26, 2023 7:17 pm
Look into another great organization benefitting families dealing with childhood leukemia. The A team, office in Homewood, created by Andy and Jan Thrower when their son endured this disease and survived.
Cheryl - February 26, 2023 7:23 pm
This gave me goosebumps. What a beautiful story. ❤️
Carlene La Rue - February 26, 2023 7:27 pm
What a very special story. Make-a-Wish Foundation has made such a difference to so many children. Thank you for sharing this story. I look forward to reading your stories every morning. Your stories are always inspiring and make my day brighter. Thank you❤️
Tiffany - February 26, 2023 7:58 pm
We recently moved to Helena, Montana. The folks here have created their own make a wish foundation, its called Big Hearts Under The Big Sky. They provide outdoor adventures for children and their families with life threatening illnesses as well as adventures for our brave men and women who have fought for our country and are adjusting to civilian life. It’s Disneyland for the hunters and fisherman done Montana style. Its pretty incredible to be a part of giving these gifts of memories and second chances for all these families.
Cynthia Russell - February 26, 2023 8:11 pm
My Sweet Neighbor who has a heart of gold has been with Make-A-Wish organization for years & has granted so many wishes over the years.. Yes, Indeed, SAINTS & ANGELS live & walk among us!!! BLESS THEM ALL!!
muthahun - February 26, 2023 8:51 pm
Oh my dear, but you are affiliated… or at least involved! You just moved all your readers to do what they can for a fine charity. Good on ya, mate!
Melissa Brown - February 26, 2023 9:34 pm
What a beautiful story. I hope it moves many to donate to the Make a Wish Organization. These poor, sweet children and their families deserve some joyous moments in their lives. Thank you Sean for getting the word out !!!
Linda Moon - February 26, 2023 10:27 pm
I never knew how Make-A-Wish got started. And, oh my, I didn’t know the statistics about childhood cancer….the worst kind of all. I’m glad you told us about Make-A-Wish because my wish is that no child dies of cancer. I’m not God, but I’ve had cancers since 2004, the most recent one this just this month. So, maybe I’ve learned a little bit, and I hope I can make a child’s wish come true!
pattymack43 - February 26, 2023 11:04 pm
Make-A Wish is the epitome of “love one another”!! I heartily support the work of these dedicated individuals who work so selflessly!! As Grandma to a neuroblastoma survivor, my heart breaks for the families of those who haven’t survived. Thank you, Sean, for the history lesson.
Gayle Wilson - February 26, 2023 11:42 pm
Sean, thank you for writing about the Make A Wish foundation. I heard about this when I was a teacher many, many years ago. A student at our school had a sibling with cancer and Make A Wish made that child’s wish come true. The school where I worked began supporting Make A Wish – not only the faculty but every student in the school gave to give children, just like them the opportunity to have their wishes come true.
Connie K - February 27, 2023 12:42 am
Apparently Southern Baptist’s don’t have a sense of humor l
Stacey Wallace - February 27, 2023 2:47 am
Sean, thanks so much for this sweet story. The Make A Wish Foundation is a wonderful organization. May God bless everyone involved with it.
Merry & Doug McGee - February 27, 2023 3:34 am
Make A Wish granted our best friends son’s wish. He was 17 when diagnosed with stage four Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, otherwise known as ACC. His future seemed very uncertain. Thankfully we serve a big, BIG God. This man/child will be 34 the 8th of March, and is now a daddy, himself! Many thanks to the Make A Wish foundation for all the wonderful things you do!
Merry & Doug McGee
JonDragonfly - February 27, 2023 3:45 am
You can refer a child or donate here:
Ginga Smithfield - February 27, 2023 1:03 pm
I wish like heck that you were a member of the Make A Wish foundation, too, because I know that with you great big caring heart that you could be a huge asset and bring a lot of joy to very sick children! God bless you, Sean Dietrich!!
MD - February 27, 2023 5:50 pm
Back in January, the life size bronze statue of Chris Grecius, in police uniform, in front of the Make A Wish headquarters, was stolen by 2 jerks in Phoenix, for scrap metal. They caught one of the guys but the statue was destroyed when they yanked it loose with a chain tied to a truck. I hope they have to pay restitution.
Linda - February 27, 2023 6:55 pm
My then 10 yo grandson was the recipient of make-a-wish and received an outdoor playground. He received a heart transplant at 10 months old and has autism and a rare genetic disorder-Gaucher’s Disease. We are exceedingly grateful.
Patricia Taylor - February 28, 2023 5:15 am
What a wonderful organization! Thanks for letting us know the history of it. I know several kids who have been the recipient of it and it is a blessing! God Bless you!
Sharman Corey - February 28, 2023 3:30 pm
WOW! I never knew this amazing story of the origination of Make A Wish! Thank you, Sean.