Articles from the Wheelchair Foundation headquarters in Danville, CA and major news source outlets.

2010 Holiday Letter from David Behring, President of the Wheelchair Foundation

Dear Friends,

Jonathan, A Wheelchair Recipient

Imagine the possibilities that a new red wheelchair brings! During the entire eight years of his life in a small village in Yucatán, Mexico, Jonathan had never moved on his own. He waited and watched as his three sisters and older brother explored their worlds. Now that he is mobile, he too can go to school and socialize with other children. He no longer has to crawl and his mother no longer has to carry him everywhere they go. A new life awaits Jonathan and his family because of donors like you!

Jonathan is one of the 850,000+ people who have received the gift of mobility from the Wheelchair Foundation over the last ten years. Due to your generous contributions, we are fast approaching our original goal of distributing one million wheelchairs worldwide. Please help us continue to spread the joy that wheelchairs bring to recipients and their families. They all deeply appreciate your life-changing gifts.

You can make your holiday shopping meaningful, simple and quick. Celebrate the season with gifts of hope, mobility, freedom, dignity and independence for another human being. Donations of any dollar amount make a big difference to those who merely wish to move about in a self-determined way.

Sponsor a wheelchair in the name of a loved one for a $150 donation. You will receive a beautiful presentation folder with a photo of a wheelchair recipient and a personalized certificate, thanking you or honoring a special person in your life. Your gift of mobility in the name of a loved one will be received with heartfelt appreciation and will be remembered long after the holiday season. And in the process, you will be making dreams come true!

In these difficult economic times your support means more than ever, and we are offering these additional holiday incentives –

With each donation of $100+, you will receive a music CD titled “Holiday Around the World.”

And those who donate $500 or more will also receive the limited edition engraved paperweight.

    Please make your donations by December 1st to allow sufficient time for us to prepare and mail your customized presentation folder(s). Call us directly, donate online, or donate by mail.

    Thank you for sharing in the holiday spirit by helping us answer the prayers of physically disabled people worldwide who dream of mobility.

    Happy Holidays,
    David E. Behring

    100 Wheelchairs Donated to the BAPD

    By Alesha Cadet

    The Rotary Club of East Nassau, in partnership with The Rotary Club of Joplin Missouri, donated 100 wheelchairs to the Bahamas Association For the Physically Disabled (BAPD) yesterday.

    President of the Rotary Club of East Nassau Michele Rassin said, “Rotary is about doing good work in the world and this is one prime example of two Rotary Clubs getting together internationally to help make a difference in someone’s life.

    “We are very honored to have worked with the Rotary Club of Joplin Missouri to be able to provide 100 wheelchairs for the Bahamas to those in need. The need is great and we have a lot of people in this country who need resources that the Government can’t provide and that they can’t provide for themselves. Rotary and the good work that Rotary does, we are very proud to be able to offer this assistance to the Bahamian community.”

    Mavis Darling-Hill, deputy director of Social Services, said it is estimated that 100 to 130 million individuals with disabilities worldwide are in dire need of wheelchairs.

    She said, “The Wheelchair Foundation, in partnership with the international humanitarian business professionals and non-governmental organisations, have provided the gifts of freedom and mobility to more than 500 thousand individuals in over 140 countries.

    “The goal of the wheelchair foundation is to provide a wheelchair for everyone in the world lacking the financial resources to purchase the necessary chairs.”

    Ms. Hill said for individuals with physical disabilities, the freedom and mobility that a wheelchair provides can be the first step towards successfully integrating into society.

    She added, “For those individuals, whether they are children or adults with mobility impairment, the gift of a wheelchair not only has the ability to provide a sense of dignity and self respect, but it can also be the key that unlocks the door to opportunities.”

    Beverly Oakes, a member of the Rotary Club of Joplin Missouri, said, “It’s been our privilege to partner with the Rotary Club of East Nassau to bring these wheelchairs.

    “I’m just one person representing our club and it is also my privilege and fellowship to be a part of Rotary International, where things like this happen all over the world.”

    Powerlifter with Frail Bones (Malaysia)

    Born with brittle bones, petty trader Yee Gan Chee, now 37, broke her legs six times as a child and could no longer walk by the time she was in Standard Three.

    “My leg would break even if I fell from a low level. As I was very hyperactive as a kid, I fractured my left ankle four times and my right ankle twice,” said the ASEAN Paralympic powerlifter from Penang.

    The first time it happened was when she was only 10 months old.

    “I was on the high chair eating a biscuit when some neighourhood kids accidentally knocked me over,” she said, adding that the last time she broke an ankle was when she was nine.

    Yee said she learned to walk with her knees and that she used to get rheumatism every time it rained.

    In 1998, she was fitted with custom-made shoes with plastic moulds.

    “It took me two years to get used to wearing the shoes before I could walk unaided. Even now, I only wear the shoes when I have to leave the house, as it is quite painful,” she said.

    Yee was one of 25 people who received new wheelchairs from the Rotary Club of Tanjung Bungah in Penang on Saturday.

    The oldest recipient was Ong Yew Leong, 92, who lost the ability to walk a year ago.

    One of his sons, hawker Ong Cheong Pin, 48, said it would be easier to move his father around instead of having to carry him.

    “He’s uncommunicative, but I’m sure he would appreciate the mobility,” he said.

    Society of the Disabled Persons Penang president Teh Lay Kuan said 16 of the recipients were its members.

    Teh, who lost the use of her legs since four through polio, said she was pleased to get a new wheelchair to replace her old one that she had been using since age seven.

    The club’s Wheelchair Project chairman Ronny Tan said the idea for the project began in April 2007 during a visit from its sister Rotary Club of Icheon Namcheon from South Korea.

    “Through the Rotary Foundation Matching Grant Programme, we were able to secure a total of US$16,500 (RM53,509). With the sum, and the support of the Wheelchair Foundation, we are able to import 100 good quality wheelchairs with mountain bike tyres.

    “These 25 recipients are the first batch. We hope to complete giving away the balance of 75 wheelchairs within a year,” he said.

    Wine Charities: For the Love of Wine

    by Michael Cervin

    Since grade school we’ve all heard the fatigued proverb, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Most of us wouldn’t argue with that, at least not publicly. Privately however, well, who doesn’t want free stuff? In truth, the wine industry is a magnanimous group, routinely called upon to provide free juice for charity auctions, public and private tastings, festivals and most anyplace where wine is poured and people want to imbibe at little or no cost. These three west coast wineries showcase the dedication of making wine, making changes, one bottle, and one person at a time.
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    Wine with Wheels: Lookout Ridge
    As a teenager Gordon Holmes began his lifelong fascination with wine by purchasing futures. Not your typical adolescent activity. He worked in a high end wine shop in Los Angeles where the wealthy would buy wine to lay down. “They would tell me how magical those wines were,” Holmes recollected. So he decided to save his money. Beyond saving money, Gordon made money as a Wall Street publisher and eventually started his own winery, Lookout Ridge in Sonoma. He currently produces syrah, pinot, cab, and sangiovese. His first vintage was 2001 and his wines were made by Greg LaFollett. Simple enough.

    A few years later he was at a charity event. “Someone spent $1,500 for a single bottle of my 2001 pinot noir and those proceeds went to the Wheelchair Foundation,” he says. As it happened, Gordon’s wife, Kari, was already sequestered in her own wheelchair fighting a fierce battle with multiple sclerosis. The couple began to donate more money to the Wheelchair Foundation and eventually secured a shipping container of wheelchairs that Gordon distributed in Mexico.

    “That’s what changed my life,” he states. “I cry at dog food commercials so the fact that I cried for several days after seeing the problems in Mexico was no big deal.” Gordon and Kari decided for every case of wine sold at Lookout Ridge, they would donate a wheelchair to the Wheelchair Foundation. But Gordon tends to think in broader strokes. “One day it hit me, why can’t I put together the Bob Dylan’s of the world, the rock stars of winemakers?”

    He enlisted some of the top winemakers in Sonoma and Napa including Cathy Corison and Andy Erickson, winemaker’s who have worked at legendary wineries like Staglin Family, Screaming Eagle, and Stag’s Leap. And he changed tactics.

    “Though economically it doesn’t make sense, for every $100 bottle we sell of our winemaker designate wine, we donate a wheelchair.” So when a winemaker donates a barrel of wine to Gordon’s Wine for Wheels foundation, “that effectively changes 288 people’s lives,” as he puts it. 150 million however is the number that the World Health Organization estimates are individuals on the planet with no mobility. “If you can imagine how terrible that life is, how lucky we are, and by merely giving someone a wheelchair, you change their life,” Gordon says.
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    The irony of course is Kari Holmes. “If I could cure my wife that would be my number one priority,” he says, his voice getting thin. But Kari, like others on every continent, have enriched lives because someone is doing something. “People buy my wine that don’t even drink,” Gordon says of those who desire to get involved. And it’s not just wheelchairs, it’s finding the right outlet for every individual. “Let’s say you’re not into wine but you’re into animals. If my story motivates you to do something for the animals, that’s also part of my mission.”

    Full Story here

    Riding On Hope

    An elderly Haitian man lies in pain on a cot in a dark, wooden shack with no electricity or running water in a rural area near the Haiti-Dominican Republic border.

    The 100-pound earthquake survivor, Jean, is unable to walk — a virtual prisoner in the shack.

    As he is peeled from the sheets, he moans quietly. He is placed in his new wheelchair and taken outside. He looks to the sky, lets out a gasp and fills his lungs with fresh air.

    I’m the Daily Toreador photo editor. Last week, I was supposed to be in class finishing up my degree. Instead, I found myself in the Dominican Republic, distributing wheelchairs to Haitian earthquake survivors who desperately needed them.

    My parents invited me on this humanitarian trip that was a joint project of Rotary International and The Wheelchair Foundation. Our mission was simple: eradicate immobility. Our nine-member group, accompanied by three Dominican relief workers, spent three days delivering 70 wheelchairs, free of charge, to earthquake victims in villages, hospitals and clinics throughout the Dominican Republic.

    We all take our legs, our mobility, for granted. But for people without the use of their legs, wheelchairs have an enormous impact on their lives. It gives people back their independence. Children can go back to school, adults can go to work, and the elderly can get out of their homes and have some social interaction. It also alleviates the burden on family members who otherwise would have to carry the person around.

    For perspective’s sake, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake tore through Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 12. It killed 250,000 people, injured countless thousands and left about 1.5 million homeless. Some of the catastrophic damage can be blamed on poor or nonexistent building codes. Many displaced Haitians took refuge with family and friends in the neighboring Dominican Republic. The Dominican hospitals, clinics and orphanages are filled with Haitian earthquake survivors.

    Austin-area Rotary clubs raised enough money to purchase 560 wheelchairs. Each chair costs $150 and comes in everyone’s favorite colors: red and black.

    I was supposed to chronicle the trip with photographs. But the first time I saw a child with a missing leg whose face lit up when he was placed in a wheelchair, I knew I had to put down the camera and be an active participant.

    I took some pictures. But now that I’m back in our world on the Tech campus, I’d like to share a few of the many stories I heard and saw as our group hand delivered wheelchairs.

    Michelle was lying in bed at a clinic in Santo Domingo, gripping her college-aged daughter’s hand. Before the earthquake, she was a kindergarten teacher and homemaker in Haiti. The earthquake destroyed her two-story home. Her children escaped with minor injuries. Michelle, who was with her sister on the first floor during the quake, had her left leg crushed; the bone protruded from both sides. Her sister died in her arms as they waited to be rescued.

    Michelle was full of hope because she could now move her toes. The wheelchair we provided will allow her to continue physical therapy. If she shows promise, there is a chance she will go to Atlanta to learn to walk again.

    At a hospital in Santo Domingo, my parents decided the mood was a little damp. My father conducted a wheelchair race. The halls filled with sounds of screeching tires and laughter.

    My mother danced with an amputee in one of the wheelchairs. She wanted to show her that she could have a normal life. They twirled around the hospital room, patients and doctors cheered and laughed. “Dancing with the Stars,” beware.

    Our original plans had us distributing wheelchairs in Haiti, but the Haitian government recently closed the border to undocumented vehicles. Miles of trucks filled with expired food and medicine lined the boarder, unable to reach the earthquake-ravaged people. We continued into Haiti on foot, weaving through hundreds of islanders carrying supplies and food on their heads and in wheelbarrows. I wonder what they thought of nine camera-wielding Americans slathering sunscreen on their pale faces.

    The border trip was not a waste, however. One of our guides, Hector, obtained the proper documentation to bring hundreds of wheelchairs to Haiti. According to Hector, it is paramount that each chair be hand delivered. It is the only way to guarantee each chair goes to a person in need.

    Our group had adventures away from the villages, hospitals and clinics as well. We ate fresh watermelon and coconuts at roadside stands, saw an overturned 18-wheeler, and were temporarily stranded by a roadblock of burning brush and tires.

    It will take years, perhaps decades, to rebuild Haiti. But for now, I can smile knowing that Jean, Michelle and 68 other earthquake victims have hope to rebuild their lives.

    SOURCE: Daily Toreader

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