A rewarding opportunity

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Every 38 minutes, a child with a life-threatening medical condition in America or its territories has a wish granted by the fine folks at Make-A-Wish America. Since the organization’s founding in 1980, more than 220,000 individual wishes have been granted.

It would be hard to imagine a charitable organization with broader public support or a better public image than Make-A-Wish, which operates under the simple belief that granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions can make their lives better.

That belief is what drove a group of officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety to intervene on behalf of a young leukemia patient, Chris Greicius, in 1980, granting his wish to be a police officer by giving him a special uniform, allowing him to participate in a motorcycle proficiency test and then delivering him a set of motorcycle officer’s wings. The day after receiving those wings, Chris Greicius succumbed to his illness. Six days later, two DPS motor officers flew to Illinois to participate in a full police burial for the boy.

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And on the way back home, the two officers had a conversation that helped launch Make-A-Wish Memorial Inc. “I said, ‘Why can’t we do that for other ill children, let them make a wish, and we’ll make it happen?’” co-founder Frank Shankwitz is reported to have said.

Since 1980, the organization has provided countless visits to Disneyland and other theme parks, trips to Super Bowls, opportunities to be a firefighter or police officer for a day, chances to meet celebrities and even chances to be a superhero.

Last year, the San Francisco Make-A-Wish chapter nearly brought the Internet to its knees as people around the world watched streaming video of the elaborate lengths to which the organization went to give a 5-year-old cancer survivor his wish to be Batkid — complete with a ride in the Batmobile, a meeting with the police commissioner and knock-down, drag-out fights with some of Gotham City’s most notorious criminals.

A Greater Virginia chapter of Make-A-Wish works with children throughout most of the state, including Suffolk, but there are no Suffolk volunteers to help with the load, and officials hope to change that situation. They are planning a training seminar on Saturday in Virginia Beach from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for people from Hampton Roads who think they might like to volunteer as wish-granters. Volunteers must be at least 21 years old and complete a background check, as well as the training.

Volunteers might never get a chance to meet the real Batman, but it’s seems a safe bet that the rewards are as hard to beat as the Caped Crusader himself. For more information, call 804-217-9474 or email pjordan@va.wish.org.