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

Oakland Athletics & Dominican Republic

The Oakland A’s, in partnership with the Wheelchair Foundation, will present 2,500 wheelchairs to the needy people of the Dominican Republic on November 9th at the team’s Dominican baseball academy in La Victoria.

A’s team President Michael Crowley, Wheelchair Foundation founder Ken Behring, along with A’s players Miguel Tejada, Jose Ortiz, Luis Vizcaino and Mario Encarnarcion will be on hand for the presentation ceremony. Also scheduled to attend are Rosa Mejia, the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, Doctora Milagros, Vice President of the Dominican Republic and Charles Manatt, United States Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. In addition, the A’s and Wheelchair Foundation will make a second presentation on Friday, November 10th in Bani, the hometown of A’s shortstop Miguel Tejada.

The Wheelchair Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing wheelchairs to men, women and children throughout the world who cannot otherwise afford one, was launched on June 13th, when philanthropist Ken Behring contributed $15 million toward a new international effort of purchasing and delivering one million wheelchairs over the next five years.

The A’s and Wheelchair Foundation announced their partnership on September 12th, when the club agreed to purchase 2,500 wheelchairs through its community fund.

The new foundation, which has already established partnerships with such service organizations as the American Red Cross, Hope Worldwide, Operation USA, Hope Haven and the Mobility Project, seeks to bring independence and dignity to people who have been deprived of mobility by war, disease, accident, natural disaster or old age. The effort has already attracted significant international support. The Foundation’s International Board of Advisors, co-chaired by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, includes former South African President Nelson Mandela, former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing and the First Lady of Guatemala, Evelyn de Portillo. Behring, a successful businessman turned philanthropist and former owner of the Seattle Seahawks football team, has personally delivered hundreds of wheelchairs this year to Romania, Vietnam, the Crow Indian Nation in Montana, Guatemala, Brazil and Botswana.

“The A’s have enjoyed a long relationship with the wonderful people of the Dominican Republic, both on and off the field,” said team President Michael Crowley. “The Wheelchair Foundation gives people a new sense of hope, dignity and independence. The A’s organization is pleased to share Ken Behring’s vision in this act of pure humanity.”

For more information about Wheelchair Foundation, visit www.wheelchairfoundation.org.

The Childrens Crusader

At a stop in Haiphong during a recent mission to deliver wheelchairs to Vietnam, Kenneth Behring was introduced to a young, sullen girl who hadn’t been able to move her legs since birth. Tempting her with a lollipop, the 72-year-old former owner of the Seattle Seahawks lifted the youngster off a pile of rags that had served as her bed and gently placed her into a wheelchair. Within minutes, the child was wheeling herself around the room, smiling from ear-to-ear. It was one of the most moving experiences of Behring’s life.

“I’ve been very fortunate and that’s why I’m giving away wheelchairs,” Behring says. “It’s time I try to give something back and make it a little better world in payment for the good life I’ve had.” This past June, Behring launched Wheelchair Foundation, a new foundation that aims to purchase and deliver one million wheelchairs internationally over the next five years.

Underwritten with a $15 million contribution from Behring, the foundation intends to raise an additional $150 million from corporations, other foundations and individuals. Donors who give $150. to the cause will be linked with a specific wheelchair and will receive a photo of the chair and its recipient.

For Behring, who began his business selling cars, and subsequently made a fortune in home construction, this project is just one of many ways he’s used his wealth to fund worthy causes. (In late September, he announced his donation of $80 million to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.)

The idea for giving wheelchairs came to him after several trips in recent years to deliver medical and educational supplies to communities in Tanzania and Namibia

Wherever Behring traveled, he asked staff in rehabilitation hospitals what they most needed. The answer he heard again and again: “wheelchairs.”

“If you talk to government agencies, they say they furnish all the wheelchairs that are needed, but that’s not true at all,” Behring says. Instead, when he’d visit hospitals he would “see people shoved into corners and covered up with blankets.”

In addition to 250 heavy-duty wheelchairs Behring helped bring to Vietnam last March, he participated in deliveries to Romania, Botswana and Guatemala. To date 600 wheelchairs have been distributed in eight countries. The organization’s goal is to deliver 30,000 wheelchairs to 58 countries by the end of the year.

For Behring, there’s no substitute for seeing first-hand what it’s like to touch a person’s life with so simple a gift. “Being there makes all the difference it the world,” Behring says. “You have to see the people and hold their hands and help lift them into the wheelchairs to realize they are poor, but they have feelings and are just like us except that they have no hope. If you can give them hope and a way of life, it really makes you feel good.”

In starting the Wheelchair Foundation, Behring returned to something he knows well: providing people transportation and being an entrepreneur.

As a young man, Behring bought 27 used cars for $900 and started the first dealership of its kind in his hometown of Monroe, Wisconsin. A few years and one Lincoln-Mercury dealership later, Behring and his family left Monroe for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “I liked the challenge of starting something new,” says Behring. “ I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I’d had my fill of selling cars.”

As a sideline to car sales in Monroe, Behring started, on a modest scale, building houses and apartments. His business grew and by the late 1960s his company had become the largest builder of single-family homes in Florida. In 1972, he moved to Northern California where he developed the 2,300 home country club community of Blackhawk.

Behring bought the Seattle Seahawks football franchise in 1988, and also set up the Seattle Seahawks Charitable Foundation to assist children’s charities in the Seattle area. His first taste of giving turned him overnight into a philanthropist.

“Many of us have made enough so that we don’t need more money,” Behring says. “You’re looking for some other way to fulfill your life, to show the reason you’re here is more than just to make money.”

Over the next few years Behring, who lives in Danville, California, built the Museum of Art, Science, and Culture in Berkeley (in partnership with the University of California) to house the school’s paleontology, anthropology, art and science collections. He pledged $20 million to the Smithsonian and contributed $2.1 million to expand the Safari Club International Wildlife Museum. In late September of this year, Behring committed to the largest single donation ever in the history of Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution he pledged $80 million to its National Museum of American History.

While he’s proud of all he’s done over the years, Behring says it’s hard to beat the satisfaction he gets from his current undertaking. “When I see the happiness in the faces of the people who get a wheelchair, I feel that this is the best thing I have ever done in my life.”

Delivery To Brazil Features Queen of Spain

Queen Sofia of Spain joined Brazilian First Lady Ruth Correa Leite and Wheelchair Foundation’s founder and primary benefactor Kenneth E. Behring this week in a ceremony presenting new wheelchairs to 40 of Brazil’s neediest citizens. This was the first in a series of future wheelchair deliveries to the people of Brazil by the Wheelchair Foundation, a new U.S.-based nonprofit organization that provides new wheelchairs to people around the world who cannot afford them.
The Spanish Embassy in the capital city of Brasilia hosted the ceremony, where disabled Brazilians and their families received their wheelchairs personally from Queen Sofia and Mrs. Correa Leite.

“The gift of a wheelchair will make such a difference in their lives,” said Kenneth E. Behring, “They will no longer have to rely completely on their families and communities to move around. For them, a wheelchair represents independence, mobility, and hope.”

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia are co-chairmen of the International Board of Advisors for Wheelchair Foundation. Other prominent board members include former President of France Valery Giscard d’Estaing, First Lady of Guatemala Evelyn de Portillo, U.S. Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), Congressman Steve Largent (R-OK), and University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl.

Wheelchair Foundation was launched in June 2000, and has to date delivered more than 1,000 wheelchairs to people in Vietnam, Romania, Botswana, Guatemala, and the United States. The organization is in the process of filling orders for more than 10,000 wheelchair requests from countries around the world, including Ukraine, Cambodia and Nigeria. In addition, Wheelchair Foundation supplies chairs in the U.S. through a partnership with the Salvation Army. The Foundation’s goal is to provide one million wheelchairs to people in need worldwide over the next five years.

Wheelchair Foundation

Philanthropist Kenneth E. Behring announced today that he has committed to contribute $15 million toward a new international effort of purchasing and delivering one million wheelchairs in the next five years.

Behring said the effort would be organized under the auspices of Wheelchair Foundation, a new nonprofit organization dedicated to providing wheelchairs to men, women and children around the world who cannot afford one. He said that an estimated 20 million people who need wheelchairs don’t have one.

“There are more than 20 million people in the world who can’t use their legs,” Behring said. “For them, just getting from one side of a room to another is a monumental struggle. A wheelchair will give them new independence, dignity and hope.”

“A million wheelchairs is just a start. We want to get a chair to every person who needs one,” he added. “I will be going into the board rooms, the foundation offices and the homes of wealthy individuals and asking for their help.” Behring’s goal is to raise $150 million over the next five years to bring one million wheelchairs to people in need around the world.

The new foundation, which has already established partnerships with such service organizations as the American Red Cross, Hope Worldwide, Operation USA, Hope Haven and the Mobility Project, seeks to bring independence and dignity to people who have been deprived of mobility by war, disease, accident, natural disaster or old age.

Later this month, the Salvation Army, another partner, will deliver 1,000 Foundation wheelchairs to centers in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago for distribution to Americans in need in and around those cities.

The effort has already attracted significant international support. The Foundation’s International Board of Advisors, co-chaired by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, includes former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing and the First Lady of Guatemala Evelyn de Portillo.

Behring, a successful businessman turned philanthropist and former owner of the Seattle Seahawks football team, has personally delivered hundreds of wheelchairs this year to Romania, Vietnam, the Crow Indian Nation in Montana, Guatemala and Botswana leading up to the official launch of the Foundation.

“The gift of a wheelchair is an act of pure humanity that provides a clear and instant benefit,” said Rep. Steve Largent (R-OK). “Without complicated programs or politics, Wheelchair Foundation is operating on a simple premise ? every person in need of a wheelchair deserves one.”

Rep. Largent, a wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks football team when Behring was the team owner, co-hosted the Foundation’s launch reception along with Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA).

“Ken Behring saw suffering and is trying to help,” said Senator Frist. “I applaud Wheelchair Foundations’s laser-like focus on one very specific and absolutely basic need ? mobility.”

For more information about Wheelchair Foundation, visit www.wheelchairfoundation.org.

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