Tri-Valley Hero: Blackhawk developer represents greatness, selflessness

This article was borrowed from the Danville Express and written by Jeremy Walsh. The original article can be viewed by clicking here.


Tri-Valley Hero: Blackhawk developer represents greatness, selflessness

Kenneth E. Behring receives award for Life Achievement

Kenneth E. Behring’s life has been filled with remarkable achievements, but the ambitions that now motivate this businessman and philanthropist are among the most noble, as he strives to improve health conditions worldwide, educate young people and help develop the leaders of tomorrow.

Kenneth E. Behring

Kenneth E. Behring (courtesy of Global Health and Education Foundation)

“We’re just, in a way, trying to do what we feel is something necessary,” the 85-year-old Blackhawk resident said.

Born in Illinois and raised in Wisconsin, Behring grew up in a poverty-stricken family during the Great Depression. He worked a variety of jobs from an early age, entered car sales after high school, soon became a dealership owner and earned his first million by 27.

From there, Behring would embark on a truly extraordinary — and lucrative — business career that saw him create the retirement community of Tamarac, Fla. in the 1960s, develop Blackhawk here in the Tri-Valley beginning in 1977 and serve as majority owner of the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks from 1988-97.

But, as Behring describes, it wasn’t until early 2000 (after placing a young, disabled Vietnamese girl in her first wheelchair) that he discovered “a life of purpose,” leading to him becoming one of America’s most committed philanthropists.

The happiness and sense of hope emanating from the girl impacted Behring deeply and motivated him greatly.

That June, Behring founded the Wheelchair Foundation, which aims “to create awareness of the needs and abilities of people with physical disabilities, to promote the joy of giving, create global friendship, and to deliver a wheelchair to every child, teen and adult in the world who needs one, but cannot afford one,” according to its website.

By December 2000, the organization had distributed 20,000 wheelchairs across 65 countries.

The Wheelchair Foundation, now a division of Behring’s Global Health and Education Foundation, has delivered or committed 940,675 wheelchairs to date worldwide, according to its website. 

Kenneth E. Behring

Kenneth E. Behring on a Wheelchair Foundation distribution. Wheelchair Foundation has delivered over 940,000 wheelchairs across the world


A contributor to a variety of charitable causes, Behring sees significance in efforts across the globe as well as close to home.

He is an active supporter of the University of California, Berkeley Principal Leadership Institute, which aims to train and develop educators who could lead some of the Bay Area’s most underserved schools.

“What Berkeley has been able to accomplish is they go to the poorest schools and they find teachers that are very dedicated that do not have money to have continued education, but that are very, what they feel, qualified with what Berkeley can give them to come back and do much more in the schools than what they were doing as teachers,” Behring said.

Through educational endeavors such as the Principal Leadership Institute, museums and National History Day, Behring hopes to help young people find a path toward making a true difference in the world.

“I think there’s a possibility of a lot of young people becoming leaders. Leaders are not born, they have to be developed,” he said. “I’m not talking about political leaders, I’m talking about the kind of leaders that can make a better world.”

Behring, now in his later years, said he prefers to focus his time and energy on philanthropic ventures and business activities — like participating in the stock market — that help fund those causes.

“After you get to be a certain age, you don’t really have … I would rather work than take personal time,” he explained. “I am going around the world all the time, so there’s no place in the world that I want to go that I haven’t been to or that I can’t go to.”

And the deep desire that continues to drive this Tri-Valley Hero is simple.

“All we’re doing is doing the things that we think can help make a better world,” Behring said. “And I’m not doing it for recognition or for anybody’s satisfaction but my own satisfaction of thinking that what I’m doing will, in a small part, maybe make a better world.”

Hero FYI

* Behring and wife Patricia celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary in October.

* The Behrings had five sons (one died) and have 10 grandchildren.

* Behring founded the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in 1988. He has also pledged some $100 million to the Smithsonian Institution museums.

* He sold the Seattle Seahawks for $200 million to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

* Earlier this year, Behring released a new book, “The Road to Leadership: Finding a Life of Purpose.” All proceeds benefit his Global Health and Education Foundation.

* Behring has called Blackhawk home for more than three decades: “I don’t think there’s any place with better weather, and then at least around where I’m at here, there’s very little traffic. And the air is clean, water is good. So it’s got everything going for it.”

Students Get a Glimpse of Life in a Wheelchair

This article borrowed from the San Ramon Patch article published on Oct. 16, 2013 by Jane McInnis (Editor)

Understanding the difficulty of getting around in a wheelchair has been a hands-on lesson for students at Montevideo Elementary.

Last week, Montevideo Elementary’s physical education classes were a little different from norm: rather than ball being played on the courts, wheelchair obstacle courses became the main activity.

The school participated in the Wheelchair Foundation program, a charity organization rgar raises money for wheelchair distribution worldwide while fostering perspective to younger students who live without disabilities.

“For us it’s a whole different world,” said fifth-grader Shrena Sudhakar, 10, who participated in the program.

Schools across San Ramon, Danville, Alamo and Pleasanton participated in the fundraiser this year.

Last week, students took turns riding and guiding classmates in red wheelchairs around an obstacle course set up by P.E. instructor Michelle Cabrita.

[See Michelle Cabrita’s video about the project on the school website here.]

Cones proved tricky for students to maneuver around on their own, often being knocked over or caught under the wheelchair.

“I tell the students the cones represent maybe a big rock or a pot hole in the road,” Cabrita said, helping students imagine the obstacles others have to overcome.

After the lesson, students talked about how much work it took to get around in the wheelchairs.

“It changed my perspective because I thought you could just zoom around places fast [in a wheelchair], but it took me so long just to get to the half-way point,” said Zaid Fattah, 10.

“I never want to do it again in my life because my arms ache,” said Kavya Anand, 10.

To see more photos and videos of the program at Montevideo Elementary, click here.

Added Comfort For Physically Disabled

This article was borrowed from the Seychelles Nation website from Oct 8 2013

Added Comfort For Physically Disabled Children and Elderly


Mr Ken Behring along with Rotary providing mobility to children in the Seychelles.

The Rotary Club of Victoria in partnership with an international non-profit body called Wheelchair Foundation have together brought added comfort to the lives of 10 people with physical disabilities.  Ten wheelchairs were handed over recently at the School for the Exceptional Child in the presence of the foundation’s founder Ken Behring, it’s Director Charli Butterfield and other members.

Also present at the handing over ceremony were the President of the Rotary Club of Victoria Mario Rotolo and other members, as well as representatives of those who have benefited from the donations.  They expressed words of thanks to Rotary Club and the foundation for such gifts which will help to promote inclusion of those children and adults in various social activities. Six Students from the school have received wheelchairs, tow have been given to the Sisters of Charity while the North East Point home for the elderly has got one.

The other wheelchair was given Yva Valmont, who is suffering from a medical condition called cerebral palsy which affects her mobility. The Wheelchair Foundation is a non-profit organisation leading an international effort to create awareness of the needs and abilities of people with physical disabilities. Mr. Behring and his team from the foundation are going around the world making donations in various forms such as wheelchairs, equipment for schools and humanitarian work.

Mr. Rotolo said Rotary Club is always trying to help those who are in need in the different communities in the country through various projects. He added that this donation of wheelchairs comes after a visit of a foundation’s member last year during one of the club’s meetings. Discussions have been held since then and a partnership has been developed.

Wheels for Chairs – "RUSH" A Ron Howard Film

On Thursday, September 26th 2013, there will be a special advance screening of the movie RUSH from Two-time Academy Award® winner Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) at Century Theatre in the Blackhawk Plaza at 7:00 pm along with a reception that begins at 5:30 at the Blackhawk Musuem.

A $25 per person donation* will secure your tickets to this wonderful night. All proceeds from this “Wheels for Wheelchairs” event will go towards the Wheelchair Foundation’s goal of providing a free wheelchair to every child, teen and adult worldwide who need one but has no means to acquire one.

To make your donation and secure your tickets to this advance screening send an email by clicking here or call 925.736.9533

Haven’t heard about this epic story? Watch the trailer below.




Quake Survivor Gives Back to El Salvador

In July of 2013, a group of 40 Americans, including Rotarians from Ohio and Florida and 20 local Rotarians, traveled to El Salvador. They paid a visit to a small community of 145 people called El Milagro (The Miracle), two hours from San Salvador. The purpose was to visit a Rotary project and discuss several new proposed projects for the community. While there, the group came across a 47 year old man with a neuromuscular disease named Jesus. He was unable to move by himself, and spent his time in an old chair, repairing phones. The Rotarians had one wheelchair in their bus, and quickly went to retrieve it. Fortuitous or pre-destined, Jesus’s life was changed forever.

Jesus receives his new chair from the Wheelchair Foundation

Rotarians along with Hector Manley provide Jesus, a 47yr old man w/ a neuromuscular disease a wheelchair.

Two days later, in the village where Hector Manley had suffered his own terrible injury, he heard about an 80 year old man who had recently suffered a severe stroke and had only a dilapidated wheelchair to use. Hector grabbed a wheelchair and climbed into a police truck to personally deliver it to the man. Many of us were convinced there was a purpose as to why we encountered these two “forgotten” men.

Twelve years before, Hector was an 11 year old El Salvadorian boy who lost his legs during one of the worst earthquakes to ever hit Latin America. A group of Rotarians from Ohio helped him with his medical expenses and recovery. Eventually, Don and Karen Manley adopted him, thereby providing him with two families, as he continued his education and rehabilitation in the United States.

Hector knew there were many people in his home country that lacked mobility and the resources to buy a wheelchair. He also was keenly aware that many of the returning wounded veterans in the United States were going to need help as they readjusted to civilian life. Consequently, Hector came up with a project called “Paddling for a Purpose.” The idea was to kayak down the entire 2700 mile length of the Mississippi River, with his adopted father, during the summer of 2012. Through friends, family, his website, Rotarians and businesses, he raised over $37,000. This was split between the Wheelchair Foundation and the Wounded Warriors Project. The Wheelchair Foundation matched his donation and sent 270 wheelchairs to El Salvador.

The five day trip in July of 2013 is a story of family, Rotary and “giving back.” Surrounded by 20 family members, from 3 to 85 in age and decked out in matching bright neon shirts, along with Rotarians from two countries, Hector’s group made an impact everywhere. They brought gifts for the children, made hospital and Rotary project visits, and gave out wheelchairs, friendship and huge smiles. At the main wheelchair distribution, a hundred people were lined up outside the gate, eagerly anticipating the receipt of a wheelchair. Twenty people from one town had traveled three hours in an old bus. Some of the people were carried in by relatives, some had old crutches, and others were using worn out wheelchairs that were falling apart. The volunteers started assisting with the process, and it went smoothly.

Old age, birth defects and amputations from diabetes were the main causes of their disabilities. Poor pre-natal health care is a primary reason for the birth defects, and it makes you appreciate our healthcare system. Diabetes is endemic to many Latin American countries, and I have seen a sharp increase in recent years. As a Rotarian, I was relieved to only see a few polio cases, and they were middle aged men. The lack of mobility due to aging will always produce a need for wheelchairs. Our oldest recipient on this trip was 102, and didn’t retire from farming until age 92.

After the wheelchair distribution, we drove to Hector’s hometown. His birth family made a wonderful meal for the American guests, and the kids from both countries took turns knocking the “stuffing” out of two piñatas. We walked down the rocky and uneven path to his school, a rough descent with his prosthetic legs. We quickly realized why his families agreed that it would be better for him to live in the United States. It was an honor for me to witness the strength and love of both of Hector’s families, the power of Rotary in the world, and the resilience and compassion of this remarkable young man “to give back” because strangers helped him so much during his time of need.

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