Movie on life of Make-A-Wish Foundation founder hits theaters

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- The founder of the Make-A-Wish foundation, Frank Shankwitz, received the red carpet treatment Thursday night, as a movie based on his life, "Wish Man", hits theaters.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is credited with granting more than 450,000 kids wishes across the world, and the movie tells a story of a man with an enormous heart. For Shankwitz, it all started after granting the wish of a young boy who was battling leukemia. Nearly four decades later, he would go to grant hundreds of thousands of other wishes thanks through the non-profit.

"It's about my life but you never think it will make it to the big screen, but here we are," said Shankwitz.

Wish Man is a feature film about the life of Shankwitz, a former Arizona DPS officer who would go on to start the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was a seven-year-old boy named Chris who was the driving force behind it all. Chris was battling leukemia, and his wish was to be a motorcycle officer, just like Shankwitz.

"Arizona Highway Patrol. I was a motorcycle officer at the time, arranged for him to come to visit us, and that day here in Phoenix, we made him the first and only honorary highway patrol officer," said Shankwitz. The agency that Shankwitz was referring to, Arizona Highway Patrol, was taken over by the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) after it was established in 1969, according to the DPS website.

Sadly, Chris passed away a couple of days after receiving his wish. He was buried in his own customized uniform, badge, and motorcycle wings.

"I just started thinking this little boy had a wish, why can't we have that happen for other children, and that's when the idea was born," said Shankwitz.

Nearly 40 years later, over 450,000 wishes have been granted all over the world through the foundation, and after granting wishes for thousands of children with critical illnesses, Shankwitz is now getting his wish granted, thanks to a host of an event he took part in.

"He said, 'what's your wish?' I said, 'nobody has ever asked me that', and he said, 'you've granted wishes for all of these years, and what is your wish?' I said I just like my story to be told, so that my kids and grandkids see that I did something cool," Shankwitz recounted.

Director Theo Davies took interest in sharing Shankwitz's life story, and involved him every step of the way. Shankwitz, however, admits there were some moments hard to relive.

"The scene where I get killed and brought back to life, and I watch that and I'm advising what to do. Then, when they got the knock out of the scene, I'm sitting there and the crew is looking at me and ask are you OK? I'm reliving this whole thing," said Shankwitz.

It's his story that Shankwitz always wanted to share, and hopes that are inspired.

"The message is that everyone can be a hero, and to help someone when they need it," said Shankwitz.

"Wish Man" is now playing in select theatres.

Wish Man