All his life, Christopher James Greicius dreamed of becoming a police officer. But he couldn't know that his wish would be the inspiration for the largest wish-granting organization in the world.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation® traces its beginning to one boy’s wish. 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-Pauling. He also promised Chris a ride in a police helicopter. When Chris’ health worsened, Austin contacted Ron Cox, an Arizona Department of Public Safety 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 in a 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.

Make a Wish Foundation

But his experience didn’t stop there. Cox contacted John’s Uniforms, which agreed to make a custom-tailored DPS uniform for Chris. The store owner 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. Learn More>>


Information on Southern Florida Chapter Website:

Q: What is Make-A-Wish’s mission?
A: The mission of the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Southern Florida is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.

Q: How is the Make-A-Wish Foundation structured?
A: There are 65 Make-A-Wish chapters covering the United States and 28 affiliates of Make-A-Wish Foundation International. The Southern Florida chapter serves children in 13 counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Okeechobee, Highlands, Monroe, Hendry, Glades, Collier and Lee. Our biggest cities include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, Key West, Naples and Fort Myers.

Q: What’s the history of the Foundation?
A: In 1980, Christopher Greicius, a young boy from Phoenix, Arizona, wished to be an Arizona State Trooper for a day. Chris’ magical wish was fulfilled when the Arizona Department of Public Safety arrived by helicopter to pick him up, take him for a cool “ride” around the city, fit him with his own uniform and swear him in as an honorary State Trooper. Since Chris’ wish was granted, we haven’t stopped! More than 175,000 wishes have been granted by Make-A-Wish® chapters. The Southern Florida chapter was founded in 1983.

Q: How many wishes does the Southern Florida chapter grant?
A: This past year, we granted the wishes of 527 Southern Florida children and have granted more than 6,900 wishes in our history.

Q: Who is eligible to receive a wish?
A: Wish children can be referred by their doctors, social workers, other health care professionals, family members or even themselves! Once we receive a referral, we contact the child’s physician to verify eligibility. Each wish child MUST: be between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18, be diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition, live or be treated in one of the counties in our territory, not have been granted a wish by our chapter or any other chapter.

Q: What is the average cost of wishes you grant?
A: Thanks to the generosity of our in-kind donors and the dedication of our volunteers, the average cost of each wish granted in the Southern Florida chapter is just $5,000.

Q: How much does each family have to spend on a wish?
A: Nothing. Our wish families have enough to worry about. When they are traveling to Walt Disney World®, to see snow or to meet their favorite celebrity, we pay for everything, including spending money for souvenirs to help them remember their one-of-a-kind experience.

Q: How do you raise the money it takes to grant those wishes?
A: We finance our endeavors through corporate sponsorships, special events, foundation grants and individual contributions. The Foundation does not solicit funds by telephone and receives no government funding.

Q: What do wish children wish for?
A: ”I want to go to Disney World!” is by far the number one request of our wish children. Popular requests also include: computer, travel, shopping spree, home electronics and meeting celebrities. Wishes generally fall into one of four categories: to have (a computer), to go (on a shopping spree), to meet (Dwyane Wade), or to be (a firefighter).

Q: I received a solicitation call from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Was that your chapter?
A: Absolutely NOT. No Make-A-Wish chapter will ever call you asking for money. Please be careful when answering these types of calls - ask lots of questions, take notes and pass the information along to us. We prosecute these individuals aggressively.

Q: How much of my donation will go toward overhead expenses?
A: 79 cents of every dollar we spend goes toward granting wishes.

Q: How can I volunteer my time?
A: Visit the volunteer page on our web site. The page will explain the different types of volunteer jobs available – you can also access a Volunteer Interest Form to fill out and submit online. You will be called when the next mandatory Volunteer Information Session is scheduled for your area. We have more than 550 volunteers who are the lifeblood of our organization.

Q: My question didn’t get answered. Can you still help me?
A: Call 954-967-WISH (9474). We’ll answer it for you.

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