A non-profit founder turns negatives into positives by finding ways to give back to others.
Frank Shankwitz, founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, spoke to Bradley students in the Hayden-Clark Alumni center on Tuesday night. Shankwitz spoke on topics such as his childhood, his career and the child that inspired him to start the foundation.
The Peplow Pavilion was crowded with students as university President Gary Roberts introduced Shankwitz, giving a brief background of his accomplishments. A video then played, displaying his diverse career history.
Shankwitz introduced the lecture with backstory starting with a rough early childhood, when he lived with his mother in tents and in cars in Michigan before scraping enough money to finally move to Arizona when he was 10 years old.
They arrived in Seligmann, Arizona, where they lived in their car off the side of the road. A local rancher saw them and took them to their home.
At this time, Shankwitz befriended a man named Poncho, who became a father figure in his life. Poncho taught him valuable lessons like giving back, work ethic, integrity and turning negatives into positives.
Aspects of his childhood touched others in the crowd, and inspired them to give back as well.
“It makes you think about how lucky you are to be in your current situations,” said Matthew Toomire, senior business management and leadership double major. “It’s really easy to make a difference in other people’s lives without spending a penny.”
Frank Shankwitz shared his story of how a seven year old kid, Chris, changed his life in 1980. Chris was dying from leukemia and wanted to be a police officer from the TV show C.H.I.P.S. Two days later, Chris went into a coma and died. He was buried in his custom-made police uniform.
He was the first and only kid to be a highway patrolman in Arizona.
“His wish was granted,” Shankwitz said. “Why can’t we do this for other kids?”
On his way home from Chris’ funeral, 36,000 feet over Kansas, the Make-A-Wish foundation was born.
Shankwitz ended the event by saying, “[The] reaction of those kids is my payment. That’s why I don’t take a salary.”
Many students felt inspired by his speech and felt they should do more.
“This makes me want to be a better person and do more charity events and giving back to the world,” said Cade Shonkweiler, a freshman actuarial science major.
A movie about his life titled “Wish Man” will be coming out in the next year, and a sneak peek trailer played as the event came to a close.
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