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How a Dying Boy's Dream Was Fulfilled by Caring Police Officers — and the Chain Reaction of Good These Cops Set Into Motion


"He was only seven years, 269 days old when he died. But he taught me about being a man."

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, is a well-known charity, but some Americans might not be aware of the incredible and inspirational story behind how it came to fruition.

The foundation's roots were set more than 30 years ago in 1978 when a young boy named Chris Greicius was tragically diagnosed with terminal leukemia at the age of 5.

Greicius had hoped and dreamed of becoming a police officer, but the disease put this far-off dream in dire jeopardy — that is until caring police officers stepped in to make it happen.

"He liked his trucks and his cowboy boots," Greicius' mother Linda recently told CBS News. "He just loved everything about [cops] — between the sirens and the uniform and the authority figures, maybe in some way it gave him a little extra fight for life, you know?"

Fulfilling Greicius' wish began when Tommy Austin, a U.S. Customs agent whose wife was friends with the young boy's mother, shared the child's story with Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Ron Cox in 1980, looking for Cox's help in making the dream a reality.

Cox was so moved by the story that he asked Department of Public Safety spokesman Allan Schmidt for help and departmental director Ralph Milstead agreed to offer clearance for the agency to support the initiative.

And that's when other officers like Frank Shankwitz and Dick Schaefer also got involved as well, coming together to make Greicius the agency's first ever honorary officer.

"None of us had any idea what we were getting into at the time," Schmidt said decades later, as they had no idea that their efforts would spark a massive organization.

Greicius was very ill and there wasn't much time left, but with help from the Department of Public Safety, his dream of becoming a police officer at the age of 7 was made a reality.

Austin, Cox and others worked together to quickly get the young boy a uniform, a helicopter, motorcycle and cop car ride and to get him the exams needed to ensure that his badge would be attainable, the Daily Mail reported.

He died just two days after getting his uniform and was buried wearing it, with Linda recently saying that her son was elated by the final wish he was granted.

"You could see the pride in his face. He did it. He did it, you know?" she told CBS News. "Oh, I don't think there's words to describe it, I really don't. More enjoyment than probably what he'd known in a long time."

(Make-A-Wish) Chris Greicius's wish was made a reality (Make-A-Wish)

That simple gift — helping a sick boy attain his greatest wish — has turned into a massive charity that has granted, to date, 250,000 wishes to kids just like Greicius.

After Chris' funeral, officers began discussing how to turn that one act of kindness into something more profound. After receiving a $15 donation to get Make-A-Wish off the ground, the group received its non-profit status in 1980.

By the following spring, $2,000 was raised and the first official wish was granted, thus sparking a domino effect of kindness.

Austin, who was a Make-A-Wish co-founder, said that the experience of helping Greicius taught him all "about being a man."

"He was only seven years, 269 days old when he died. But he taught me about being a man. Even though he was only a boy," he once said of the experience. "I can tell you that because of meeting Chris, I am an entirely different man."

Read more about the touching story here.

(H/T: CBS News)

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