They will be the featured guests at the Hall of Springs in Saratoga Springs on March 23 for the Make-A-Wish® Northeast New York annual Wish Gala – appropriately enough dubbed “The Year of the Wish Granter." The Austins have been tireless advocates for the Make-A-Wish mission and vision for going on four decades.
After being told by his wife in 1980 about a critically ill boy’s desire to be a police officer “to catch bad guys,” U.S. Customs Agent Tommy Austin embarked on a quest to make 7-year-old Chris Greicius’ wish a reality.
“That little boy,” Austin said, “is going to be my partner.”
After hearing about Chris, Tommy Austin told Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Ron Cox during a stakeout about the young boy who was losing his battle with leukemia, but wanted to be a police officer. Through a mushrooming effort of multiple officers, Chris became Arizona’s first and only honorary DPS officer.
The officers won a race against time. Chris died less than a week later.
The Austins travel the country speaking on behalf of Make-A-Wish. Ahead of coming to the Capital Region, Make-A-Wish Northeast New York asked Tommy Austin three questions:
Q: Chris Greicius’ wish to be a police officer “to catch bad guys” is now nearly 39 years old. Did you think at the time that wish would grow into something bigger, let alone be so momentous?
A: Absolutely not. All I wanted to do is save his life. And that’s what we did for 11 days … I had no idea this would ever, ever morph into the world’s largest wish granting organization. Ever.
Q: You have been an advocate for the Make-A-Wish® mission for going on four decades: Why have you stayed involved?
A: A lot of good things have happened to me in my life, and we have to give back. I grew up with a mom and dad who were eligible for welfare, but they were gathering clothes for poor people. It was how I was raised.
Q: When you talk about Make-A-Wish, what do you want people to know the most?
A: We do what we say we do. I think our [low] administrative expenses show that. We use the money we get for what we say we do – grant wishes. This is what we do. I hope we never forget about what we do. It’s not about you or me. It’s about the child.