Disney Continues to Make an Impact with Make-A-Wish Partnership

In 1980, Chris Greicuis had a wish to be a police officer. His Phoenix community made that wish come true while he was in his final stages of battling Leukemia. His mother, Linda Pauling, saw the power of making a wish come true and believed that other children facing medical hardship deserved to have their wishes come true as well. With just under $40 and a dream, the community banded together to found Make-A-Wish. In about a year, the group was able to grant their first wish for another child facing leukemia. Frank "Bopsy" Salazar had his wish come true when he visited Disneyland, and Disney’s partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation has endured ever since.

Disney’s commitment to Make-A-Wish continues to be strong as exhibited by the recent refurbishment of the Wish Lounge, a private space in Disneyland Park where Make-A-Wish families can take a break. The Wish Lounge was recently refurbished with a new look inspired by Walt Disney Animation Studios’ upcoming film Wish. Located on Main Street U.S.A., the three windows above the lunge were also enhanced to bring the storied history of the organization to Disneyland Parks.

Chris Greicuis’s window bestows upon him the honor of “Special Agent: Department of Hopes & Dreams Enforcement,” which is inspired by his love of law enforcement and the legacy of wish granting he inspired. Discussing the impact his son has had, his mother Linda Pauling said, “I would have never have imagined. We had hopes. I have said my prayers because there are more kids out there. I know what was given to Chris and I know what was given to me. That feeling that people actually care. They wanted to make him happy and they didn’t want anything in return. That is what Make-A-Wish is.”

Frank “Bopsy” Salazar’s window names him the founder of the Disney Magical Wish Maker Society. His mother, Nance Octaviana Trujillo, reflects on all the joy brought to all the kids who may not be feeling well that are visiting Disneyland. As she told us, “Bopsy said that ‘at Disneyland there is no hurt, just joy. So let’s just have fun.’ It lifts them to a different plateau of happiness.” Of his visit to Disneyland, she remembers how Bopsy wanted to do it all. He wanted to do all the rides, eat everywhere, and even enjoy all the smells.

It is fitting that the ceremony happened where the magic began and also where the first wish was granted. Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock says, “We are here to make people happy whether they are having the greatest moment of their lives or whether they are struggling, we know what our job is, to create happiness. It is a simple mission.” On the Wish Lounge he said, “We give them a moment of relaxation to help them through their day without wearing them down.”

Disney Parks Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro sits on the national board of Make-A-Wish, and while he admits that he gets to do many fun things as part of his job, being a part of Make-A-Wish is one of his greatest joys. He mentioned how he is struck by how much the cast members enjoy making these wishes come true. In fact, one of the Cast Members working the window dedication is a former wish kid whose current leader at Disney was one of the Cast Members that made the wish come true.

Make-A-Wish CEO Leslie Motter said that seeing wish kids grow up dispels a stigma that only children who may not make it are granted wishes. As she mentioned, “We are now seeing the power of wish granting in delivering better outcomes. Doctors are seeing the benefits of making these wishes come true.” Josh D’Amaro knows this to be true within his own family as his niece was once a Make-A-Wish kid, and now she is thriving after her wish was granted at Walt Disney World.

The Walt Disney Company celebrated World Wish Day across the globe from the Disneyland Resort, Pixar, Disneyland Paris, the NFL Draft, and beyond. The center window, dedicated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, says “Where There is a Wish, There is a Way.” For ways you can help make wishes come true, visit Wish.org.