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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.”

Wheelchairs for Jalisco

Join Wheelchair Foundation this Sunday, July 30th at

Stella’s Ristorante located at 3451 Blackhawk Plaza Rd. in Danville, California for

“Wheelchairs For Jalisco Dinner”

Call (925) 263 – 2112 for details and reservations

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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Making A Difference In A Small Rural Settlement In South Africa


This article was written by Douglas Cockcroft, Managing Director of Splitting Image Taxidermy.

The joy of giving is truly one of lifes greatest gifts. Through the wheelchair foundation, the gift of mobility and a chance at a better quality life is given to people from all across the globe.

In a relatively short space of time, the Wheelchair foundation has achieved the incredible milestone of donating and distributing over 1 million wheelchairs globally. This is a feat that was achieved through the passion and selfless giving of time and resources of Mr. Kenneth Behring.

On a global map, Africa represents one of the worlds largest populations in need. The remotest areas are often forgotten and those in need in these areas would ordinarily never  have the slightest chance of the gift of mobility. These are the areas where the Wheelchair foundation has had greatest impact.

On the 15th October 2015, Mr. Kenneth Behring and a few associates, met in a small rural settlement in the Eastern Cape of South Africa to give the gift of mobility to 11 people with disabilities that had taken away their freedom of movement. Having been in contact with a number of local charity organisations in the area, candidates were brought together to meet at the Assumption Development Centre in Joza Township. In any first world situation, the candidates would have been lining up at the door, but in communities like these, dispite the opportunity, these disabled candidates do not even have access to basic transport to get to these events. Poverty and disadvantage are common practice, and only a small number in need ever actually receive the opportunity at a new beginning.

With the kind support of Ezulu Game reserve, and the charity organizations, candidates were collected from their homes far and wide and brought together for a brief but very emotional gathering. The faces of ladies who had suffered illness and lost limbs, as they sat in their new wheelchairs was a sight for sore eyes. These are women who care for their families dispite their own limiting disabilities, and do the best they are able to survive on a daily basis. To them, these wheelchairs are their saving grace and the gift that will transform their lives going forward.

The children born with disfigurements that have forced them into an immobile life, are suddenly transformed to children with hope. The elderly who have long given up any dreams of being able to care for themselves, are given a final chance at a mobile life of dignity.

The event saw so many smiles in such a small centre. Mr. Behring was once again leading from the front and stood with open arms so acknowledge the abilities of those who have been branded as “disable” for so long.

2015-10-16 11.37.06The greatest gift a man can give is his time. With the efforts of men like Mr.Behring and those mobility warriors he surrounds himself with, the future of so many lost causes will be given the opportunity at a mobile life that we all so richly deserve

Our sincerest thanks goes out to  the following organizations for their continued passion and efforts in caring for the disabled.

Raphael Skills and Development centre.

Jabez AIDS health care centre

Child Welfare

Hospice

 

Keep giving and let the wheels of freedom roll forwards.

Douglas Cockcroft

Managing Director

Splitting Image Taxidermy

One Million Wheelchairs and 15 Year Anniversary

Wheelchair Foundation would like to thank everyone who purchased tickets and participated in our one-millionth wheelchair distribution celebration Wheelchairs Around the World, on Saturday, June 13th at the beautiful Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California.

The event sold out, and those 550 supporters and friends in attendance got treated to a spectacular evening featuring traditional dance from four continents, fine food and wine and truly heartfelt appreciation for the accomplishment of delivering one million wheelchairs to individuals in need of mobility in more than 155 countries around the world.

The audience witnessed an emotional interview with Wheelchair Foundation Founder and CEO, Kenneth E. Behring, in which he recounted the origin of his inspiration to “attempt what had never been done,” and how a simple gift of a wheelchair changed him and led him to a life of purpose.

The highlight of the evening occurred when longtime supporter Mr. Ken Hofmann stood up and pledged one million dollars for wheelchairs for Latin America, to kick start the distribution of our second million wheelchairs. Mr. Hofmann’s generous act prompted others, resulting in nearly $1.7 million in donations from attendees of the event.

Thank you to everyone involved in this joyous evening!

This set of photos by Rachel Capil Photography

These photos by Cindy Hegger Photography