JEFF BEHRING, of Blackhawk, and a team of volunteers flew to Haiti on Jan. 27 on a humanitarian mission following the Caribbean nation’s devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

“My father loaned his plane and flight crew to send doctors, nurses, wheelchairs and medical supplies donated by John Muir (Medical Center of Walnut Creek) and Medshare to Haiti,” Jeff’s brother, David Behring, the president of the Wheelchair Foundation, wrote in an e-mail to me.

The plane, owned by Kenneth Behring, a Blackhawk developer and philanthropist, is an MD-87 outfitted to seat 24, with plenty of cargo space.

I spoke with Jeff last week following his Jan. 30 return.

“There are tent cities set up everywhere — plastic tarps with stakes holding them up,” he said. “People are afraid to go back into their houses and buildings (Haiti has been subject to continuous aftershocks). There was a 7 p.m. curfew and you didn’t want to drive after that because people were sleeping in the middle of the road, I was told.”

Jeff said they set up camp in a big grassy area near the airport, where search-and-rescue teams were just leaving.

Three different makeshift medical areas were established around the island, including one right next to the epicenter, and lines of people soon formed for treatment.

“The doctors and nurses were treating wounds and infections. People had been patched up quickly right after the earthquake and then needed additional surgery. I did a lot of ‘gofer’ work — whatever I could to help the medical team,” Jeff said.

Charli Butterfield, the foundation’s assistant director of distribution, handled logistics for the flights and crew.

She stayed with the plane, which returned to the U.S. to pick up additional medical supplies and 16 more medical staff, then flew back to Haiti.

Included on the plane from the Bay Area were 30 wheelchairs for hospitals to use immediately, Jeff said.

Another 520 wheelchairs are on the way, and it’s hoped that funds can be raised to send thousands more wheelchairs.

To provide additional help, proceeds from the foundation’s eighth annual charity ball Feb. 27 at the Blackhawk Museum are designated to provide “Mobility for Haiti.” The gala evening will begin at 5:30 p.m. and include hors d’oeuvres, dinner, dancing, silent and live auctions and a live stage show.

Admission is $150 per person. For tickets, contact Jeff at 925-648-3829 or jeffbehring@wineforwheels.org.

Physicians from John Muir included orthopedists Torsten Jacobsen and Abid Qureshi and Ramin Mehmande, an orthopedist and plastic surgeon, Jeff said.

Other Bay Area volunteers included Ben Drew, executive director of John Muir Medical Center, and Chuck Haupt, executive director of Medshare in San Leandro, who was one of the main organizers of the trip.

Dan Catullo, of DC3 Music Group LLC, led arrangements from Los Angeles, receiving support from David Archuleta, New Kids on the Block, Creed, Godsmack and other celebrities.

Scott Stapp, lead singer for Creed, went along on the flight to Haiti and joined Jeff and Glen Perry in providing “gofer” assistance as needed.

For information on the Wheelchair Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to deliver a wheelchair to anyone worldwide who needs one, visit www.wheelchairfoundation.org or call 925-736-1571. Each $75 donation helps deliver a wheelchair.

SOURCE: Contra Costa Times

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