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WHEELCHAIR FOUNDATION DELIVERS MOBILITY FOR A THUMBS UP & A SMILE

Article By Jody Morgan of the Alamo Today & Danville Today News

The Wheelchair Foundation, officially established by Ken Behring on June 13, 2000 (his 72nd birthday), has delivered 1,107,349 wheelchairs free of charge to individuals worldwide in over 155 countries who have no means of affording the wheelchair they need. In developing countries, an estimated 90% of children, teens, and adults who require a wheelchair are unable to acquire one. From the Heart, the Wheelchair Foundation’s schools program launched in 2012 by Don Routh, Josh Routh, and Bill Wheeler, introduces students in Tri-Valley schools firsthand to the enabling power of a wheelchair and connects them personally through letters and photographs to wheelchair recipients in Latin America whose lives have been positively impacted by their fundraising efforts. The gift of mobility spreads life-liberating benefits like ripples in a pond to family, friends, and caregivers multiplying the effect of each one delivered tenfold.

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Wheelchair Foundation From the Heart students are all smiles in Danville’s 4th of July parade. Photo courtesy of Wheelchair Foundation.

Raised during the Depression in a home with no hot water or central heat, Behring thought he knew what poverty was like until he began traveling to Africa in the 1990s. Taken to hospitals with inadequate medical supplies sometimes so overcrowded patients had to lie on the floor and schools that had no books and barely provided shelter, Behring responded by stocking his plane with human-itarian supplies each time he returned. In 1999, six wheelchairs destined for a hospital in Romania filled out the cargo of 15 tons of canned meat gathered by LDS Charities for delivery to refugees.

In Road to Purpose, Behring writes: “Little did I know that these six wheelchairs would alter the direction of my life.” One elderly stroke victim exclaimed after Ken helped settle him in his new wheelchair, “Now I can go outside in my yard and smoke with my neighbors.” Ken took to heart the lesson he learned that day. “I had previously seen wheelchairs as a form of confinement. I didn’t comprehend the liberation that one could bring to those who are unable to afford them.” Trips to Vietnam and Guatemala in early 2000 confirmed the enormous need and inspired Behring to address it. One Guatemalan girl only six or seven years old spent her days sitting in a box while her parents worked. Behring writes: “When we gave her a wheelchair, the mother was incredibly grateful. She told us that for the first time, her child would be able to move around the house. It would allow her to go to school and receive an education. No longer would she be confined to a box. She would have a future.”

Don Routh (L) and Josh Routh (R) with wheelchair recipient in Columbia paralyzed in a mining accident. Photo courtesy of Wheelchair Foundation.

An essential part of the message From the Heart brings to local schools is that wheel-chairs are a source of opportunity rather than limitation and that wheelchair users are enabled rather than disabled by their means of achieving mobility. Josh Routh takes the lead in demonstrating the point. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Josh is skilled at propelling his wheelchair in basketball competitions, to work, as a volunteer at School of the Imagination in Dublin, and throughout Latin America on Wheelchair Foundation distribution trips to remote villages with dad Don and amigo Bill.

Barbara Bosse gets a hug from wheelchair recipient in Columbia. Photo courtesy of Wheelchair Foundation.

Wheelchair Foundation Community Outreach Director Barbara Bosse partners with Josh at school assemblies.“I like to refer to Josh as my secret weapon,” she says. “He has a unique way of connecting with students and teachers alike. He demonstrates to students how he gets in and out of his wheelchair, how he can shoot hoops, and how he is also very comfortable answering all of their questions no matter how awkward they may seem. On one occasion, a little girl said, ‘I feel sorry for you.’ Josh replied, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me. I can do amazing things because I have this wheelchair.’” Schools interested in taking advantage of the program are encouraged to tailor it to their needs. Bosse explains, “As a teacher myself, I understand how difficult it is to ask teachers to add one more thing to their already full calendars. I like to impress upon prospective schools, ‘How can we make the program work for you?’ I emphasize the flexibility of our program and the many ways it can be tailored to fit each school’s needs.”

Black Tie Transportation founder Bill Wheeler donates delivery of wheelchairs to schools for students to experience what an hour or a day in a wheelchair is like. One middle school student wrote: “From this experience I learned that people treat you a whole lot different when you’re in a wheelchair. People treated me at two extremes. They either cared for me and did everything they absolutely could or they took advantage of me, used me as a racecar, or pushed me as fast as they could, even as I yelled for them to stop.”

Fundraising for wheelchair deliveries is included as an aspect of the program. Some teachers use the project to emphasize math. Others ask students to write to community organizations or visit them in person to hone their communication skills. The top fundraiser is Lydikesen School in Pleasanton. Strong supporters in SRVUSD include Tassajara Hills, Montair, Hidden Hills, Diablo Vista, Windermere Ranch, Pine Valley, Dougherty Valley High, Monte Vista and San Ramon Valley High. Some teachers and students join the summer wheelchair delivery teams to Latin America. This July’s Columbia journey accomplished seven distributions in five days, including one home visit. Personal connections underscore their achievement for every educator and student involved in From the Heart. Bosse notes: “Students are asked to write letters in Spanish that are then given to each wheelchair recipient on a distribution trip. In return, the student receives a reply in the form of a handwritten letter from the person and/or the family receiving the gift of a wheelchair. The personal connec-tion between our students participating in letter writing and the recipients of the wheelchair helps demonstrate that a little effort on the student’s part makes a huge difference in the lives of others.”

Charitable Group Del Corazon Donates $21,000 to Rotary’s Wheelchair Fund

This article was redistributed from it’s original article written by Jeb Bing of the Pleasanton Weekly and can be found here.

Donation matches club’s fund for delivery of 280 wheelchairs to disabled in Peru

Del Corazon, a charitable group that raises money to assist the disabled, has donated $21,000 to the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, an amount that matches the $21,000 the club has already raised to purchase a container of 280 wheelchairs to deliver to Peru this year.

Del Corazon was started by Don Routh, Bill Wheeler of Black Tie Transportation and Josh Routh to support efforts that focus on helping those with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities. In 2016 alone, Del Corazon coordinated six wheelchair deliveries to Central and South America, contributing $94,500 to the effort.

Del Corazon founders Don Routh (left) and Bill Wheeler (center) present check for for $21,000 to the Rotary Club of Pleasanton for wheelchair deliveries to the needy. Joining in the presentation are School Superintendent Rick Rubino, Rotary District Governor Jeff Orth, Wheelchair Foundation President David Behring and Rotarians Dick Stafford, Bob Athenour and Randy Brown.

The group also conducts the “From the Heart” schools program, which educates students and teachers about the challenges of the disabled through presentations, curriculum, a Wheelchair Week and fundraisers. Since 2009, 57 schools in Pleasanton and the San Ramon Valley, along with schools in Hayward, Concord and Oakland have participated.

To date, the program has raised $253,000 to purchase wheelchairs, and a number of students and teachers have traveled toCentral and South America to deliver them.

Wheeler, David Behring of the Wheelchair Foundation, Rotary District Governor Jeff Orth and school superintendent Rick Rubio joined in presenting the$21,000 check to the Rotary Club at its meeting Oct. 20.

From The Heart – 2015 Peru Distribution

Written by Don Routh and also posted on Del-Corazon.org

In July 2015 we delivered 560 wheelchairs on a two week trip to Peru. The first week we were joined by 14 teachers, high school students and parents as we delivered wheelchairs to Ica, Parcona, Pachacutec, Chincha, and Pisco.   In our free time the group experienced sandboarding in Huacachina and a boat tour of Islas Ballestas.

We took advantage of our two days between distribution groups and took the Orient Express to Mach Pichu where Josh was the first wheelchair user in memory to reach the Temple of the Sun.  For the second week we were joined by another group of 13 teachers, high school students and parents for our deliveries to Huancayo, La Merced, Satipo, and Tarma. There were long bus rides on winding roads reaching elevations of 16,000 feet.

We hiked to an incredible waterfall in Chanchamayo and visited towns where they rarely received any humanitarian aide.  All in all I think everyone would say they had an incredible experience delivering mobility to people who, in some cases, have waited decades for a wheelchair.

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Giving The Gift of Mobility – A Letter From Wheelchair Foundation President David Behring

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Dear Friends,

We take Mobility for granted – a basic right that so many have never experienced. I’ll bet you have no idea that over a hundred million people worldwide lack mobility. Without a wheelchair, their options are limited in ways beyond our comprehension. Because of your exceedingly generous donations since June of 2000, Wheelchair Foundation, the world’s largest wheelchair relief organization, has delivered nearly 980,000 wheelchairs in 150+ countries. This holiday season, please continue to Give The Gift of Mobility to others who, without a wheelchair, are having to crawl or be carried everywhere they go. Changing lives is an amazing way to celebrate!

Don Routh, one of Wheelchair Foundaition’s extraordinary volunteers, fully understands the importance of mobility. His son Josh lost the ability to move on his own at the age of one. With extensive therapy, hard work and a wheelchair, Josh is now independent and travels with his father around the world helping other people gain Mobility (like five year old Joshua from Paraguay who is pictured on the the front of our website). Don & Josh continue to provide encouragement and hope to parents who are dedicating their lives to raising children with disabilities.

Choose to provide Mobility by dedicating gifts to your friends and family and sponsoring wheelchairs in the name, honor or memory of someone you love. For your donation of $150, you will receive a beautiful presentation folder with a photo of a recipient, and a personalized certificate thanking or honoring that special person in your life.

Your Gift of Mobility moves everyone involved and represents the true meaning of the season. You will delight your loved ones and at the same time bring unbelievable joy to recipients and their families – and will be remembered long after the holiday season has come and gone.

Donations in any dollar amount help change the lives of those who are less fortunate.

With your gift of $100 or more, we will send you a blue or black triple function pen with flashlight and stylus to remind you throughout the year of your generous donation.

As an additional token of our appreciation, with your donation of $500 or more, we will include our plush micro – mink sherpa blanket.

No shopping, wrapping or shipping! Simply call us directly at 877.378.3839 or donate on line right here on our website www.wheelchairfoundation.org. Please make your donations by December 10th to allow sufficient time for us to prepare and mail your customized presentation folders.

We at the Wheelchair Foundation are exceedingly grateful for your decision to Give The Gift of Mobility. Thank you for your generous support of those who are less fortunate than we are.

Happy Holidays!

Sincerely,

David E. Behring

President

From the Heart: Embracing the Ability to Enable Others

This story is redistributed in its entirety from Alamo Today and written by Jody Morgan. You can read the original article by clicking here.

 

Elizabeth Campos at Montair Elementary found teaching from a wheelchair a daunting experience. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Campos

Elizabeth Campos at Montair Elementary found teaching from a wheelchair a daunting experience. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Campos

Thanks to the inspiration of three local men collaborating with the creativity of area educators, 48,000 students in 53 schools are enjoying a fresh approach to Ability Awareness this academic year.  Founders of Del Corazon (From-the-Heart), Don Routh, Josh Routh, and Bill Wheeler, support the curriculum with informative videos, personal presentations, and the loan for a week to each participating school of 10 wheelchairs.  Children learn to appreciate their own abilities and embrace the challenge of enabling others to realize their full potential.  Also known as the Wheelchair Foundation Schools Project, the initiative fosters respect for the strengths of peers coping with intellectual, developmental, and physical challenges, while raising funds to send wheelchair to hundres of individuals who would otherwise remain immobile.

The Wheelchair Foundation, established by Ken Behring in 2000, provides wheelchairs to people around the world who need but cannot afford a wheelchair.  In many countries, a wheelchair costs a worker’s entire annual income.  Todate, 955,000 wheelchairs have been delivered, bringing mobility, dignity, and hope to individuals aged two to over 102.

Since Bill Wheeler, founder of Blacktie Transportation, first invited Don and Josh to join him on a Wheelchair Foundation distribution trip, “the Three Amigos” have made 23 distribution trips to 14 Latin American countries, delivering 72,000 wheelchairs.  Asked to identify his favorite trip, Josh insists: “All of them!” His father, Don, concurs.  Each trip is different, every journey life changing.

Josh demonstrates to wheelchair recipients that their personal goals are achievable.  Doctors predicted Josh, born with Cerebral Palsy, would be a quadriplegic incapable of speech. At 31, he spoke his first word: “Soup!” His indefatigable spirit continues to feed his father’s dedication.  A graduate of San Ramon Valley High School, Josh relies on a wheelchair for mobility.  Now 35, he lives independently, drives his own car to work, and has multiple sports accomplishments to his credit.

In Paraguay, From-the-Heart delivered a wheelchair to another Josh.  Seeing his own son in the four-year old also coping with Cerebral Palsy, Don translated his parental experience into a message of hope for the mother.  Recalling how grateful he would have been for the advice of a mentor, Don happily shares his experience, encouraging care givers to believe in the possibility that their charges will be, likeJosh, successful adults.

In spring 2012, Don Routh presented the concept of a schools program to Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi.  Ahmadi immediately recognized the value.  “The potential of this endeavor as a true service learning project was incredible, and it was obvious that the impact to all involved would be profound,” she comments.  “The project allows our students to learn and apply their knowledge while serving others globally.  “Six PUSD elementary schools participated the following academic year.  Six teachers joined a wheelchair distribution tour that summer and all came back as zealous advocates of the program.

Wheelchairs delivered to Costa Rica and Honduras this summer will carry the SRVUSD or PUSD logo, connecting donors and recipient.

Wheelchairs delivered to Costa Rica and Honduras this summer will carry the SRVUSD or PUSD logo, connecting donors and recipient.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD) recommended the project to all of its schools for 2013-2014, as did PUSD.  Over the course of four months from late spring through summer, Don worked with Special Needs Parents and SRVUSD professionals to enhance the existing Ability Awareness curriculum to include lesson plans for all grades addressing physical, intellectual and developmental  issues.

Terry Koehne, SRVUSD Communications Director, gladly accepted the task of promoting the program with district principals.  “Don is amazing he provides every ounce of support a school needs, including background information, monthly newsletters, and updates, and makes himself available to do presentations for any group that needs it.  “Support materials include a  17 page book list, movie suggestions featuring characters coping with disability, fun ways to try wheelchairs, and fundraising ideas.  Proud that the fundraising aspect of the program will provide hundreds of wheelchairs to people who lack mobility, Koehne notes, “Providing students with real opportunities to experience the issue themselves gives more meaning to the fundraising component, and inspires them to get even more involved.”

Students and faculty members find Don Routh’s presentation riveting.  He opens up by explaining “There are more than 100 million people with physical disabilities worldwide who are in need of a wheelchair.  Thirty million of these are children and 90% of them do not to to school.”  Lacking mobility, they have no access to education and often no social interaction with other children.  Sometimes they have to crawl to reach basic items beyond their reach.

Montair Elementary School ran the project in October/November, embedding the program in all aspects of academics.  Coin counting supported math, writing persuasive letters to the business community underscored language lessons, and walking into Danville to speak to local business leaders bolstered oral presentation skills.  Dennis Simkin, Vice President, Manager recalls the day the students came to J.Rockcliff.  “I was in awe of how professional and cute they were.  “Simkin estimates that 30 or 40 people came out to hear their presentation.

Taking turns, students participated in a wheelchair basketball game.  When one student finally managed to score, the crowd erupted in cheers.  Elizabeth Campos spent part of a day teaching in a wheelchair and found maneuvering around her classroom a major challenge.  Months later, in February, another school activity highlighted how much the project affected students.  Campos wrote: “At Montair this week we are participating in a No-Name-Calling Week, and as Leadership was discussing ways to promote this, a few students brought up the fact that they actually think name-calling has decreased at school since Ability Awareness and the Wheelchair Foundation project because kids learned to accept others for who they are, no matter what they look like or their abilities.”

8 year-old Alejandro's grandmother carried him to receive his first wheelchair, delivered by From-the Hart in March.

8 year-old Alejandro’s grandmother carried him to receive his first wheelchair, delivered by From-the Hart in March.

Gale Ranch Middle School ran the program in February.  Counselor Lori Olson volunteered to coordinate.  The opportunity for a field trip to the Blackhawk Automotive Museum was a huge incentive for students, and they returned from meeting Wheelchair Foundation President David Behring even morec ommitted to the cause.  Blacktie provides field trip transportation and also stores and delivers the two sets of project wheelchairs.

Student reflections indicate how much Gale Ranch pupils learned spending time in a wheelchair.  One student commented, “Before this I had never really thought about being in a wheelchair, not being able to do things normal people could, and feeling like you are separated from everyone.”  Friends treated them differently.  Another student said, “I now know that people in a wheelchair just wanted to be treated the same way as everyone else.”The value of mobility was clearly recognized.  A third student said,  “When the founder, Don, came to our school, he said not to feel sorry for the people who have wheelchairs but for the people who don’t have one.”

San Ramon Valley High Schoo land Monte Vista are holding Basketball Game Fundraisers showcasing their athletes competing against the nationally ranked BORP Warriors Wheelchair team.  Local teams have volunteered to accept the challenge of playing in wheelchairs.  CarlyLutz, SRVHS Leadership student reports that signupsfor “Ride-in-a-Wheelchair for a Day” are filling up quickly.  Janet Willford, SRVHS Leadership teacher, describes planned lunchtime activities: “a wheelchair relay race, wheelchair bowling, and a pep rally.”

Costa Rica and Honduras (getting Foundation donations for the first time )are slated to each receive a container of 280 wheelchairs at a cost of $42,000 per container.  As of April 17th, $61,258.05 has been collected, with many schools about to commence the project.  Teachers, parents, and older students accompanied by an adult have been invited to come on this summer’s distributions trips.  Ken Behring is awarding stipends of $2,000 toward travel costs to the elementary, middle, and high school achieving the highest per student donations.

Visit www.del-corazon.org for information or to donate.