Shankwitz, a retired 41-year veteran of law enforcement, founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation while working as part of an Arizona Highway Patrol motorcycle unit. In that role, during slack time from normal patrol duty, he visited local grade schools around the state, talking about bicycle safety and letting the children sit on his motorcycle.
In 1980, he was among the Arizona Highway Patrol officers responsible for granting the “wish” of a 7-year-old boy with leukemia who wanted to be a Highway Patrol motorcycle officer like his heroes, Ponch and Jon from the television show “CHiPS.” The boy was made the first and only honorary Arizona Highway Patrol Officer in the history of the patrol, complete with a custom made uniform, badge and Motor Officer Wings.
The boy succumbed to his illness shortly after receiving his “wish” and was the inspiration for Shankwitz to start the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which would let children with life-threatening illnesses “make a wish” and have it come true. He was a co-founder and also the first president/CEO of the foundation.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation has granted over 350,000 wishes to children all over the world since its inception in 1980. Shankwitz says he plans to talk about pride, honor and respect and remind graduates that “Everyone can be a hero” in his address.
The Ohio State University today announced that Frank Shankwitz, co-founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, will address graduates as speaker for the autumn 2015 commencement. Approximately 3,000 degrees will be awarded at the ceremony.