The Very First Make a Wish – Last Wish of a Young Fireman
A few days ago the world was captivated by the story of Batkid (aka “Bopsy”) as the five yr old received his Make a Wish in San Francisco. That story was and is heartwarming as thousands of people came to see and cheer on Batkid as he “saved’ Gotham City from the bad guys.
Do you know who received the first Make a Wish in 1981? I do! The story goes like this.
In Phoenix, Arizona, a 26-year-old mother stared down at her 6 year old son, who was dying of terminal leukemia. Although her heart was filled with sadness, she also had a strong feeling of determination. Like any parent, she wanted her son to grow up and fulfill all his dreams. Now that was no longer possible.. The leukemia would see to that. But she still wanted her son’s dreams to come true.
She took her son’s hand and asked, “Billy, did you ever think about what you wanted to be once you grew up? Did you ever dream and wish what you would do with your life?” “Mommy, I always wanted to be a fireman when I grew up.” Mom smiled back and said, “Let’s see if we can make your wish come true.”
Later that day she went to her local fire department in Phoenix, Arizona, where she met Fireman Bob, who had a heart as big as Phoenix.
She explained her son’s final wish and asked if it might be possible to give her six-year-old son a ride around the block on a fire engine.
Fireman Bob said, “we can do better than that. If you’ll have your son ready at seven o’clock Wednesday morning, we’ll make him an honorary fireman for the whole day. He can come down to the fire station, eat with us, go out on all the fire calls, the whole nine yards! And if you’ll give us his sizes, we’ll get a real fire uniform for him, with a real fire hat – not a toy one, a yellow slicker like we wear and rubber boots. They’re all manufactured right here in Phoenix, so we can get them fast.”
Three days later Fireman Bob picked up Billy, dressed him in his fire uniform and escorted him from his hospital bed to the waiting hook and ladder truck. Billy got to sit on the back of the truck and help steer it back to the fire station. He was in heaven. There were three fire calls in Phoenix that day and Billy got to go out on all three calls. He rode in the different fire engines, the paramedic’s van, and even the fire chief’s car. He was also videotaped for the local news program. Having his dream come true, with all the love and attention that was lavished upon him, so deeply touched Billy that he lived three months longer than any doctor thought possible. One night all of his vital signs began to drop dramatically and the head nurse, who believed in the hospice concept that no one should die alone, began to call the family members to the hospital. Then she remembered the day Billy had spent as a fireman, so she called the Fire Chief and asked if it would be possible to send a fireman in uniform to the hospital to be with Billy as he made his transition.
The chief replied, “We can do better than that. We’ll be there in five minutes. Will you please do me a favor? When you hear the sirens screaming and see the lights flashing, will you announce over the PA system that there is not a fire? It’s just the fire department coming to see one of its finest members one more time. And will you open the window to his room?”
About five minutes later a hook and ladder truck arrived at the hospital and extended its ladder up to Billy’s third floor open window. Sixteen firefighters climbed up the ladder into Billy’s room. With his mother’s permission, they hugged him and held him and told him how much they loved him. With his dying breath, Billy looked up at the fire chief and said, “Chief, am I really a fireman now?”
“Billy, you are, and the Head Chief, Jesus, is holding your hand,” the chief said.
With those words, Billy smiled and said, “I know, He’s been holding my hand all day, and the angels have been singing . . ”
He closed his eyes one last time.
I checked this story with Snopes and another True or False site and both see it this way.
“Although several details in this particular eRumor version of the story are not completely accurate, the story is true. “Billy” is actually 7-year-old Frank Salazar (his family called him “Bopsy”) and he was the first child to be helped by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that fulfills the wishes of children with life-threatening illness. The story is from 1981. It was Make-A-Wish that made the contact with the Phoenix Fire Department as a part of one of three wishes that Bopsy had. The other two were to visit Disneyland and ride in a hot-air balloon. All his wishes were fulfilled.
Make-A-Wish contacted firefighter Bob Walp who was well known to children in Phoenix as “Fireman Bob” on the popular “Wallace and Ladmo” television program. Bopsy was welcomed to a fire station where a custom-made uniform was waiting for him complete with a yellow helmet and coat. He did not go to any fire scenes that day, but did ride in the fire truck and got to use a fire hose. The day ended with his being given a firefighter badge.
Later, when Bopsy’s condition worsened and he was in the hospital, it is true that some of his firefighter friends came through his hospital window for a visit. It was five firefighters, not 16. They prompted some smiles from Bopsy then left. He died later that evening.”