Make-A-Wish is an organization near and dear to my heart. Though I’ve never been in the position to have a loved one be a Wish Kid, having lost a child I know all too well the fear and pain the Wish Families go through. The fact that Make-A-Wish exists to bring joy to terminally and critically ill children is one of the purest things on earth if you ask me. There’s no honor I think Wish Kids don’t deserve so when I discovered how Disneyland celebrated World Wish Day my heart smiled.
April 29 is World Wish Day in honor of the day the very first wish was granted, and it just so happened to be a Disney Wish! To honor that, Disneyland bestowed Make-A-Wish with its highest honor- a window. At both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. If you look up on Main Street USA, you’ll see names on the windows. These names aren’t random- they honor an individual (typically a Cast Member or Imagineer) who has made a significant impact in Disney Parks history.
Related: Facts You Might Not Know About Main Street USA
On April 28 2023, the day before World Wish Day, Disneyland dedicated three windows to Make-A-Wish. Present at the dedication was Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock, Make-A-Wish America President and CEO Leslie Motter and Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Josh D’Amaro. Two very special mothers were also in attendance as well as six children on their own Wish Trips.
The center window is dedicated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and all Wish Kids, past, present, and future. The two represent the wishes that started it all. One window is dedicated to Chris Greicius, the inspiration for Make-A-Wish. The other window is dedicated to Frank “Bopsy” Salazar, the first ever wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Both children tragically lost their battle with leukemia at 7 years old but their stories on and inspire.
Related: Meet Former Wish Kids Who Now Make Wishes Clme True
The Chris Greicius Story
In 1979, Chris Greicius had one dream in life: to be a policeman. He always said that he wanted to catch bad guys. During the course of his illness, he developed a close bond with family friend and US Customs Agent, Tommy Austin. They would play cops and robbers together (Chris was always the cop).
Eventually, Chris was hospitalized and it became clear to his family (and Austin) that he was going to lose his fight. Austin decided he had to do something for Chris. It wasn’t fair that he wasn’t going to get the chance to grow up and catch bad guys, but maybe his dream could still come true somehow.
Austin reached out to Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Ron Cox and together with the help of the department, they made a plan for Chris’ Wish to come true.
Lt. Col. Dick Schaefer stepped in and gave Chris one of his own old badges. He also swore Chris in as an official honorary Department of Public Safety Officer. They didn’t stop.there though. The department gave him a helicopter tour of Phoenix and he even got to “drive” a police car (with help of course). The officers presented him with an official police uniform that had been specially created for him. They delivered it to him at the hospital where he wore it with pride. Unfortunately Chris lost his battle with leukemia two days later.
His mother, Linda Pauling was touched by the kindness shown to her son in his final days. She recognized what a difference that wish being granted made for him. Together with Frank Shankwitz and Scott Stahl, Linda helped found the Greicius Make-A-Wish Memorial which would later become the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Linda was one of the two special mothers present at Disneyland during the dedication. She is pictured above with her son’s window before it was installed.
The Frank “Bopsy” Salazar Story
Frank “Bopsy” Salazar’s story has been told so many times that it has become something of an urban legend. It’s been changed and altered and details have been added or taken away as the story is passed along. After much research, I’ve tried to do his story justice and bring the most accurate retelling available because everyone’s true story deserves to be told.
Like Chris Greicius, he was a 7 year old boy in Arizona battling leukemia When his wish came true. It was his doctor, Dr. Frank Barranco, who helped make it happen. He introduced Bopsy’s mother to Linda Pauling in 1980 and Pauling explained what her brand new foundation was trying to do. When asked what his wish was, Bopsy gave it some very serious thought.
At first he said he wanted a hot air balloon ride. Then he changed his mind and wanted to go to Disneyland. Finally he decided what he really wanted was to become a fireman. He let everyone know he’d decided. Make-A-Wish had other ideas though. The organization’s co-founder Frank Shankwitz had been visiting with Bopsy to find out about his dreams. Instead of making him choose between the three wishes, they’d grant all of them!
He got his balloon ride and his trip to Disneyland (which catalyzed a long-lasting relationship between Disney and Make-A-Wish) but it was the firemen who really made Bopsy’s final days joyful.
Phoenix Fire Department’s Fireman Bob — whose real name is Bob Walp — stepped in the give the boy his wish and make his firefightinf dreams come true.
In an interview with HufPost Walp said, “We didn’t want to just give him a tour. We decided to give him a badge and a jacket. We let him use the hose. We took him in the truck.”
One day in 1981 Bopsy took a turn for the worse. Someone from the hospital called Make-A-Wish who contacted Fireman Bob. The fireman brought his team out and decided to say hello to their friend Bopsy in the most unforgettable way: they climbed their fire ladder up to his window and climbed in. Toward the end of the visit, Bopsy turned to Fireman Bob. “Am I a real firefighter?” he asked. “Well, yeah,” Walp responded. “Of course you are.” Bopsy passed away the next morning, after becoming the first ever Wish Kid.
Bopsy’s mother, Octaviana Trujillo, is the other very special mothers that was in attendance. She is pictured above also with her son’s window.
Related: Meet Ellie The Wish Kid With Something to Say
It is my sincere wish that child illness and loss never touch your life. Pauling, Trujillo, and I all belong to a tragic club and I never want to accept new members into this club. Losing a child is the greatest pain imaginable. No one should ever know what it feel like for your child to receive a devastating diagnosis …or worse. However, for those who do know and live this pain, I am grateful that Make-A-Wish exists. Bringing joy to any child, but especially a sick child, is one of the most noble things a person could ever do. If you’d like to be a hero and help make a child’s wish come true, you can donate here.