Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning

Co-Founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Frank Shankwitz on “Lessons from the Wish Man Movie”

February 9, 2020

This is episode #40 with Frank Shankwitz, the co-founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, who was identified as one of the "10 Most Amazing Arizonans"[i] and if you don’t already know who Frank Shankwitz is, I hope that you will go and find his biographical movie on Netflix (The Wish Man) and watch it. I have been following the making of his movie for at least the past 5 years, as we both belong to a networking group that supports entrepreneurial visions. There are few words to describe someone like Frank, but I think it goes so much deeper than just one of 10 amazing Arizonans. Watch the visuals on YouTube here. 

Frank is a former Arizona Highway Patrol officer turned Wish Man, who granted the "wish" of a 7-year old boy with leukemia, whose wish was to be a Highway Patrol officer. If you watch the movie, you’ll see how Frank made his wish come true and the rest is history with his vision of The Make-A-Wish Foundation. Frank has spent most of his adult life seeking to fulfill the dreams of others no matter how big or small. If you have ever met a child who has gone through leukemia, it’s devastating for the family as well as for the child. A few years ago, my husband’s best friend from high school, called one night to let him know that his daughter, who was my husband’s god daughter, was diagnosed with leukemia and we watched first-hand the years of treatment involved along with everything that goes into ensuring the well-being of that child. Back then, I didn’t realize it was Frank who was behind the Make-A-Wish Foundation (even though I was following the making of his movie, The Wish Man) and that it was his idea behind the organization that gives so much back to families in their years of treatment, to offer some stress relief, peace and support.

Frank has changed the lives of thousands of people through his generosity, grit, and belief in the human spirit. Because of his work, he has received the President's Call to Service Award[ii], the Making a Difference in the World, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor awards.[iii] 

Frank, it is such an honor to speak with you today. I just wish we could be speaking face to face since we are both located in Arizona. Before we even get into the questions about your book and movie, I do have to first of all honor you for all the years you dedicated to law enforcement through AZ Department of Public Safety. My husband, along with his fulltime job, is a commander with the sheriff’s posse with the Maricopa Sheriff’s office, so we have a deep understanding of the sacrifices that are made by law enforcement officers on a day to day basis when they are going out every day to help, give back, give away their time and often put themselves in the seat of danger, to make a difference. Thank you for these years of service that I see from your LinkedIn began a year after I was born!  


Question 1: Frank, I watched the formation of your book turn into a movie, though our mutual friend Greg Reid, and I didn’t fully know your story back then until I watched your movie and then followed you through social media. Can you give an overview of where this all started? How did your life become a book, and then a movie which I just watched was in the running for an Oscar? 

Question 2: Who helped you with all that you needed to know to take your movie to these heights?  There are so many little details that you would have needed to know, especially the criteria for an Oscar. Who helped/guided you along the way? 

Question 3: In our podcast, we talk about social and emotional skills that we see are missing in today’s world. Skills that I know you recognize like empathy for others and giving back. They are making their way into schools, but students are not prepared for the workplace with these basic skills (we call them emotional intelligence skills in the workplace). What skills do you think are missing from our schools, and how do you see this impacting the workplace and society?

Question 4: With all of your years of experience working with Arizona’s Highway Patrol, and then looking back at everything you have done, (the book and movie) what message would you have for listeners that you think is important for us to hear?

Question 5: I watched the process of your movie being created, through Greg Reid who posts on Facebook about everything, and it feels like the movie was in production for a long time (was it about 5 years?) What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned from making this movie?

Question 6: What’s next for you?  I know that you do public speaking. If anyone wants to reach you, is the best place your website


Thank you so much Frank for taking the time today to speak with me and share your fascinating story. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you a bit more through social media and hope to meet you some day soon.



Frank was presented with an Honorary Doctorate Degree, Doctor of Law, from St. Norbert Frank Shankwitz[iv] was a member of the Arizona Highway Patrol's ten man tactical unit[v] that covered the entire state by motorcycle, he stayed in the police department for 42-years  before retiring in 2014. After 18-months he passed on the Make-A-Wish Foundation to more capable hands who he said, 'turned it into what it is today'

June 2019, Frank joined 89 celebrities, when he received his



[i]Arizona Central Published Dec. 30th, 2015








[v] Published in the Daily Mail August 31, 2019


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