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'Let's get him back home where he belongs': Thieves steal statue of Valley boy who inspired Make-a-Wish Foundation

The statue honoring a Phoenix boy who died of leukemia in 1980 was stolen Tuesday night outside of the Make-a-Wish America office on Highland Avenue.

PHOENIX — A bronze statue honoring the memory of a Valley boy who died of leukemia was stolen Tuesday night outside of the Make-a-Wish America offices in Phoenix, officials said.

Two unknown thieves took the statue after harnessing it with a chain and pulling it off the ground, according to a spokesperson for Make-a-Wish America.

Video surveillance captured the suspects outside the Make-a-Wish office located near 16th Street and Highland Avenue.

The organization reported the theft to the Phoenix Police Department. 

"Let's just get him back home where he belongs," said Make-a-Wish cofounder Linda Pauling.

Through tears, Linda Pauling spoke to 12News about the emotional rollercoaster the past few days have been.

"The first thing that came to my mind, my God, when I buried him the first time, it's almost like the second time," she said. "He's gone."

The statue was crafted to honor the legacy of 7-year-old Chris Greicius, whose untimely death in 1980 inspired the creation of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

At four years old, Chris was diagnosed with Leukemia. This was back in the 1980s when a diagnosis like that was more serious. His parents were told he wouldn't make it, so they decided to grant him a wish for something he loved, something he always wanted to be: a policeman.

The statue outside of Make-a-Wish America's offices in Phoenix depicted Greicius dressed as a DPS patrolman.

"And it really gave him a sense of joy and sense of strength if you see the pictures of him on his wish day, you'd never know he'd succumb three days later to his illness and die," said Make-A-Wish Arizona Vice President of Marketing and PR Hollie Costello

"Truthfully, we never really thought of it as something that could be stolen," said Costello.  "I think the statue symbolizes hope. For many of our wish kids, the experience is what brings them hope during a time when they need it most."

Since its inception, the foundation has granted wishes to more than 350,000 ill children. 

"When I returned from his funeral, we got together with the officers and others and said, you know what, there are more kids out there," Pauling said. "We wanted to grant wishes to other children with illness, life-threatening illness, and so we did with $37.76."

"It isn't just a statue; it truly, when we talk about Chris as an inspiration, he brought together all of these people, including the six who founded Make a Wish and showed them what a day or a spirit of a wish kid could do to change a child's life," said Costello.

"For me, it's every child that needs a wish. It's hope, strength, and joy," said Pauling. "Hope they'll get their wish, the strength they get it, and joy for the memories they'll have in years to come."

"By the grace of God, it will be returned," said Pauling wiping tears. "This is a plea to anybody out there who knows anything, heard anything, saw anything, please."

If you have any information about the whereabouts of the statue, you're encouraged to call Phoenix police.

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