Teen Talk 6-19

By Neya Ross

     In 1980, 7-year-old Chris Greicius was being treated for leukemia. Every day, he dreamed of becoming a police officer. U.S. Customs Officer Tommy Austin had befriended Chris and his mother, Linda Bergendahl-Pualing. He also promised Chris a ride in a police helicopter. When Chris’ health worsened, Austin contacted Ron Cox, an Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) officer, and planned a day that would lift Chris’ spirits. On April 29, 1980, Austin and a caring group of DPS personnel started Chris’ day with a tour of the city department helicopter, which also flew him to headquarters. Three cruisers and a motorcycle officer greeted him before his meeting with the DPS command staff. There, Chris was sworn in as the first honorary DPS patrolman in state history. But his experience didn’t stop there. Cox contacted John’s Uniforms, which agreed to make a custom-tailored DPS uniform for Chris. The storeowner and two seamstresses worked through the night to finish it. The 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 passed the test with flying colors on his battery-operated motorcycle. On May 2, Chris was back in the hospital. He asked to arrange the room so he could always see his uniform, his motorcycle helmet and his “Smokey Bear”-style campaign hat. DPS motor officer Frank Shankwitz presented Chris with his motorcycle wings. He accepted them with a smile that lit up the room. The following day, Chris passed away, but not before seeing his dream come true and experiencing the hope, strength and joy that came from receiving his wish. The Make A Wish Foundation is an organization dedicated to granting the wishes of children from the ages of 2_-18 with life threatening medical conditions. In fiscal year 2005, the Foundation granted 12,550 wishes, the most ever in its 25-year history. Nearly 42 percent of the wishes were for visits to a Disney theme park, followed by 18.8 percent for travel-related wishes, 10.6 percent for shopping sprees, 7.2 percent for computers, and 5.9 percent for celebrity-related wishes.
Today there are thousands of children dying everyday due to life-threatening illnesses. Most of these children die so young that they never get a chance to fulfill their dreams. And a lot of their families can’t afford to take them to the places they want to go because the medical bills are so high. The average cost of a wish is $6,450, which is why Make-A-Wish needs donations.
The Foundation was started in 1980, in Phoenix, Arizona. Since it has started more than 141,000 children have been granted their wishes. Make-A-Wish has become the world’s largest wish-granting foundation. Make-A-Wish grants a wish every 41 minutes. And as I stated before the average cost of a wish is $6,450. For every dollar that is donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, more than 79 percent goes towards wish granting, which exceeds program service allocation standards set forth by the nation’s leading charity watchdog groups, including the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Just knowing that you can bring joy and happiness to another person’s life should be enough to convince you to donate money to Make-A-Wish, but unfortunately it’s not. No one really thinks about how it makes a parent feel to see a smile on his or her sick child’s face. No one really thinks about how happy these children and families are to be given the opportunity to have a wish granted until they are in that situation.
I want you to imagine that your younger sibling has just been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Your family is not sure how much longer your sibling will live. Your sibling wants to go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, but your family can’t afford it. Make-A-Wish can grant your siblings wish and send your entire family to Paris to visit the Eiffel Tower. It would be an experience that you would never forget. It would be the best feeling in the world to see the sparkle in your siblings eyes the second they see the Eiffel Tower. It would be a great memory.
Now I want to tell you about another wish child. Frank “Bopsy” Salazar was the Foundation’s first official wish kid. Like Chris, he was a 7-year-old diagnosed with leukemia and revered people in uniform – he wanted to be a firefighter.
The first wish-granting team started with the Phoenix Fire Department, which made him a full uniform, including turnouts and a helmet. He joined Engine 9’s ladder truck; the crew let him blare the horn and douse cars with the 75-pound hose. At the end of the day, the firefighters pinned his official firefighter’s badge on his uniform, making Bopsy the city’s first honorary firefighter. Bopsy returned to the hospital after his trip to Disneyland. As he slept in his third-floor room, someone knocked on his window and opened it. Five of his fellow Phoenix firefighters climbed through using the ladder on the truck parked below. Bopsy shared a few laughs with his friends before going back to sleep with a smile on his face. Later that evening, Bopsy passed away – but not before seeing his fondest wishes come true.
You too can make a difference in these childrens lives by donating money to help grant them their biggest wish. There are several ways that you can donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. You can go to the Foundations website which is www.wish.org and download the Mail-In Donation form. Along with the completed form you can send a personal check, money order, or credit card information. The Make-A-Wish Foundation address is P.O. Box 29119, Phoenix, Arizona 85038-9119.
What many people don’t know is that you don’t have to send money to donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. If you don’t have the money, but would like to donate you can donate wish items. Examples of a few wish items are cameras, backpacks, and art supplies. You can go to www.wish.org to find a complete list of wish items that you can donate. You can also donate airline miles and hotel loyalty points. And you can donate stocks, bonds, and other securities. Again you can go to their website at www.wish.org to download the forms and find out more information about the many ways to donate. If you have any questions you can call 602-279-WISH or 800-722-WISH.
Remember you can make a difference in someone else’s life. It only takes a few minutes to donate but the experience will last a lifetime. Even though it may be a few dollars out of your pocket, knowing that you have made someone’s life better just by helping to grant their one wish is priceless.
*All of this information can be found at www.wish.org the Make-A-Wish Foundations’ official website.