Make-A-Wish National History
The Make-A-Wish Foundation® traces its beginning to one boy’s wish to be a Police Officer, and to date, more than 178,000 wishes have been granted to children with life-threatening medical conditions in the United States and its territories.
There are Make-A-Wish Foundation® chapters serving all areas of the United States, as well as international affiliates spanning five continents. Each chapter is responsible for granting wishes for eligible children within its designated geographic area and for raising the funds to fulfill those wishes.
The First Wish:
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.
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. 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.
They saw how happy Chris was knowing his wish came true, and that the wish seemed to take some of Chris and Linda’s pain away – replacing the anguish with smiles and laughter. They thought that if one boy’s wish could create such happiness, maybe they could do the same for other children. They presented the plan to the people who helped grant Chris’ wish. Linda and others endorsed the plan. Thus, the Chris Greicius Make-A-Wish Memorial – which later became known as the Make-A-Wish Foundation – was born.
Central and Northern Florida Chapter History
The Central and Northern Florida chapter was incorporated in 1994. After two years of hard work on the part of the founding Board of Directors, a provisional charter was granted to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central Florida. In 2001 the chapter grew to include an additional 36 counties of Northern Florida and became the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and Northern Florida. The chapter merged with the former Sarasota/Tampa Bay Chapter (now the Suncoast region) in September 2006.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and Northern Florida now serves 54 counties including the Central, Northern, Space Coast and Suncoast regions of Florida. Staff work in Maitland and two regional offices in Tampa and Sarasota.
Chi Omega chapters have volunteered more than 139,000 hours. To date, Chi Omega has raised more than $2.3 million for the Make-A-Wish Foundation® and granted more than 350 wishes.