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The Inspiration (1977-1980)

February 4, 1977

Chris Greicius is diagnosed with leukemia, shortly after he and his mother, Linda Pauling, have driven from Illinois to Arizona.

June, 1977

Tommy Austin, a U.S. Customs agent, meets Chris and his mother Linda for the first time.

April 29, 1980

Chris’ wish to be a police officer is granted by members of the Arizona Department of Public Safety; story airs on Phoenix Channel 12. Moved by the experience, an assembled group of future Make-A-Wish founders talk about granting another similar wish.

April 30, 1980

Officers take a special custom-made uniform to Chris’ home and give him motorcycle proficiency test with traffic cones; story runs in the Phoenix Gazette.

May 2, 1980

DPS officers visit Chris at St. Joseph’s hospital as his health declines, bringing him a motorcycle officer’s wings.

May 3, 1980

Chris Greicius passes away.

May 8, 1980

Donations are raised so DPS motor officers Frank Shankwitz and Scott Stahl can fly to Illinois to participate in a full police burial for Chris. The manager at Smitty's Supermarket in Tempe, Ariz., makes the first individual donation.

May 9, 1980

Chris is given a full officer’s funeral joined by law enforcement from agencies around Illinois.  Waiting at O’Hare International Airport, strangers who have heard the story talk to the two officers.  Flying home, Stahl and Shankwtiz discuss the impact the boy’s wish seems to have on everyone who hears about it.

I said, 'Why can't we do that for other ill children, let them make a wish, and we'll make it happen.' We approached Chris' mom, Linda, and she said,
'Let's do it.' ”

— Frank Shankwitz, Make-A-Wish® co-founder

The Founding (1980-1981)

July 1980

Some of the founders gather at the home of co-founder Allan Schmidt to elect a board of directors for the Chris Greicius Make-A-Wish Memorial, Inc. The first board consists of:

President: Frank Shankwitz

Vice President: Scott Stahl

Secretary-Treasurer: Kathy McMorris

Members: Allan Schmidt, Lynn Bergendahl

October 20, 1980

Articles of incorporation are filed.

January 7, 1981

The Arizona Corporation Commission certifies the filing.

The Early Years (1981-1982)

April 1981

The first official Make-A-Wish kid, Frank "Bopsy" Salazar, has his wish granted when he wishes to be a fireman, ride in a hot air balloon and go to Disneyland.

Kitty Derby becomes the first Make-A-Wish volunteer outside of the founding board.

April 16, 1981

Mistee Riggle is granted her wish to go to Disneyland.

June 29, 1981

Chris Baxter realizes his wish to go to the beach in San Diego.

July 1981

$2,000 is raised at Prescott balloon ride for the organization's first fundraiser. Allan Schmidt is elected the first CEO of Make-A-Wish.

August 18, 1981

The first annual meeting of Make-A-Wish is held. New officers and members were elected:

                  President: Allan Schmidt

                  Vice President: Lynn Bergendahl

                  Secretary: Grace La Scala

                  Treasurer: Kathy McMorris

  Members: Bill Drury, Ann Stine, Ron Cox. Phyllis Paulsell, Tommy Austin, Jean Rhodes

September 19, 1981

Wish kid Thomasina Schnepf goes to Disneyland.

October 20, 1981

Wish kid Bitsy Mayberry goes to Disneyland.

December 11, 1981

Lisa Shaver goes to Knotts Berry Farm.

December 26, 1981

Phoenix Channel 3 airs story of Lisa Shaver.

January 1982

Chrissy Hughes goes to Disneyland.

January 1982

Ben Hayden goes to Disneyland; NBC covers his wish story.

January 22, 1982

NBC Magazine report by Douglas Kiker airs and sparks interest in the national wish-granting movement. Following the broadcast, hundreds of calls are received to start new chapters around the United States and in Canada.


The calls flooded the system ... The same thing happened the next hour, and the next, as the piece ran in different time zones. And things started to happen like crazy. ”

— Allan Schmidt, Make-A-Wish co-founder, on response to the 1982 NBC Magazine piece that drove early growth

The Structural Years (1982-1990)

January 1982

John Paul Serna, 12, makes the first Super Bowl wish and attends Super Bowl VXI in Pontiac, Mich. His wish receives national attention.

March 16, 1982

Board meeting held: Board member Bill Drury presides; Therese Dotson, Dolli Peralta, Linda Dozoretz, Vicky Foster added to board.

August 12, 1982

Board meeting to elect officers held:

         President: Tommy Austin

         Secretary: Grace LaScala

         Treasurer: Dolli Peralta

October 24, 1982 

A letter of request to cease using the Make-A-Wish name is sent to all unaffiliated groups.

January 26, 1983

Board decides to form committees to structure workload more consistently.

March 24, 1983

Attorney Gil Rudolph speaks to board about formation of national Make-A-Wish organization, saying eight affiliates have been signed and six more are pending; he suggests a structure for national organization with national board.

May 13, 1983

Make-A-Wish Foundation® of America is incorporated to oversee the numerous Make-A-Wish chapters beginning to surface across the country.

May 25, 1983

Board meeting follows the formation of Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, and a national board is selected: Phil Bystrom, Bill Drury, Linda Dozoritz, Jose Montilla and Dolli Peralta; alternates are Linda Kaplan and Tommy Austin.

November 29, 1983

Board meeting to determine division of funds between local and national boards.

December 1983 

President Ronald Reagan grants the first presidential wish and lets Amy, a wish kid from Arizona, light the National Christmas Tree at the White House ceremony.

January 25, 1984

Dolli Peralta becomes executive director of Arizona chapter board.

April 1984

News article about Make-A-Wish reports that 82 wishes have been granted since 1980.

June 21, 1984

Tommy Austin resigns from board and is made Honorary Life Member of the Arizona Make-A-Wish chapter.

December 1984

Twenty-two official Make-A-Wish chapters are established during the year, bringing the total number of chapters to 28.

Nine-West Shoe Company becomes the first national corporate sponsor for Make-A-Wish and holds fundraising events in eight cities, specifically four-mile runs for women, with all proceeds going to wish granting.

January 3, 1985

Board meeting with election of new officers:

         President: Linda Kaplan

         Executive vice-president: Geoffrey Bruce

         Administrative vice-president: Kathy McMorris

         Secretary: Carol Francis

         Treasurer: William Keenan

February 7, 1985

Phoenix Mayor Terry Goddard proclaims March 1985 Make-A-Wish Month.

December 1985 

A short video about a wish experience, "Stephanie in the Snow," wins numerous national awards and generates more interest in wish granting. By year's end, there are 34 Make-A-Wish chapters around the world.

Jan. 1, 1986

Make-A-Wish participates in the Tournament of Roses Parade for the first time.


United Airlines becomes the first airline to establish a national program to donate free tickets to wish kids. Make-A-Wish New Zealand in officially established. With 50 chapters around the world, a total of 1,201 wishes have been granted.


A total of 1,487 wishes are granted during the year by 57 official Make-A-Wish chapters.


A total of 2,239 wishes are granted during the year, and Reader's Digest published the story, "They Bring Joy to Sick Kids," which generates international impact and response.


Eight NFL teams grant wishes, and three Super Bowl wishes are granted.

A total of 2,796 wishes are granted by 62 Make-A-Wish chapters.


Make-A-Wish celebrates its 10th anniversary and grants its 10,000th wish. A total of 3,487 wishes are granted during the year, and the organization receives the President's Citation for Voluntary Action Award.

Make-A-Wish was about the community taking care of the families and the needs of others. And it did! That was the draw into it: people giving of themselves and asking for nothing in return. What we received from giving was the gift in return. This is still true today. ”

— Kathy McMorris, Make-A-Wish co-founder

The Growth Years (1991-2000)


The Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Puerto Rico is established.

A total  of 3,998 wishes are granted during the year.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Guam is established.

Discover® Financial Services, Inc. becomes the first million-dollar sponsor. The majority of the contribution comes from Discover® Card's Cash Back Bonus Program.

A total of 4,713 wishes are granted during the year.


Make-A-Wish International is formed.

Women's World magazine features wish kid Jessica's wish to meet Princess Diana.

A total of 5,078 wishes are granted during the year.


A total of 5,402 wishes are granted during the year.


Make-A-Wish celebrates its 15th anniversary and grants 5,807 wishes during the year. A wish is now being granted, on average, every 90 minutes.


The Make-A-Wish website,, goes live.

A total of 6,490 are granted during the year.


Make-A-Wish grants its 50,000th wish for Aaron, who wishes to be a cowboy.

A total of 7,041 wishes are granted during the year.


Five corporate sponsors donate more than $1 million each.

A total of 7,498 wishes are granted during the year.


Make-A-Wish international affiliates grow to 20 with the addition of Costa Rica and the Philippines.

A total of 8,188 wishes are granted during the year, including wish kid Gregory's wish to go to Antarctica.


Make-A-Wish now serves every community in the United States.

To celebrate 20 years of wish granting, chapters and affiliates around the world grant a wish in honor of the more than 80,000 wishes that have been granted.

The Impact Years (since 2001)


More than 100,000 wishes have been granted worldwide.


Make-A-Wish celebrates its 25th anniversary.


Make-A-Wish launches Wishes Forever, its first national endowment campaign.


On April 29, the first World Wish Day® is celebrated in 37 countries to recognize 30 years of wish granting.


Make-A-Wish commissions Wish Impact Study to assess whether and how wishes change lives for wish kids, wish families and everyone involved in a wish experience.


Make-A-Wish grants a wish to 14,000 kids with life-threatening medical conditions this year alone – about half of the number of kids diagnosed with an eligible medical condition. Make-A-Wish commits to a vision of granting a wish to every eligible child.


Make-A-Wish has granted more than 220,000 wishes in the United States and its territories – on average, a wish is granted every 38 minutes. 


Make-A-Wish and Disney grant the 100,000th wish involving Disney since the organization's founding in 1980.


Make-A-Wish surpasses 300,000 wishes in the United States - a wish is granted every 34 minutes, on average, to someone in the United States.