In August of 2013, Wheelchair Foundation shipped 110 wheelchairs to Fiji. Below are excerpts  borrowed from the Fiji Sun.com news articles which you can read in their entirety here and here.

Receiving 18 of the 110 delivered wheelchairs, the president of the Rotary Club of Fiji, Adrain Hughes, said wheelchairs were one of the most resourceful elements in the lives of the disabled in our communities.  “We are very thankful for the supportive assistance by Vodafone ATH Foundation, and the Ministry of Health, who assisted in bringing the wheelchairs into the country duty free. One thing that is very evident is that people are working in a collaborative effort to assist one another and mainly the people in need.” The hand-over of the wheelchairs was held at Albert Park, in Suva.


Rotary club president, Andrew Hughes (third left) with members of the “Wheelchair Foundation” of the US after the wheelchair donation at the Vodafone Hibiscus Festival 2013’s main stage at Albert Park in Suva. Photo Courtousy of the Fiji Sun and PAULINI RATULAILAI.

Vodafone ATH executive Ambalika Devi said they continuously work towards supporting the disabled and needy people of the community. Wheelchairs were given to the Kidney Foundation of Fiji, the Father Law Home, the Old People’s Home, and others after an assessment was done.  Kidney Foundation Fiji received two. Its president, Diwan Chand Maharaj, welcomed the support coming in for the disabled.

The Savusavu Rotary Club, the Labasa Rotary Club, and the Labasa Lions Club were among the recipients this week.  Chetan Singh Heyer, a former resident of Ba, now residing in the USA, is deeply involved with the fundraising arm of Wheelchair Foundation.  Action for Children and the Aged (ACATA) executive director and Vodafone World of Difference candidate, Rosan Lal, said that there was a huge demand for wheelchairs in Fiji.  The chairs will serve as a tool for the disabled to enjoy life and get around.
“It provides an opportunity for a person to be more productive and even make a living,” says Mr Lal.

A couple of months ago, we received an email from Mr. Bradley Cook, who’s involved with “Surf Action,” an organization dedicated to helping military veterans and their families affected by PTSD and physical injuries.  Below is his letter.

“Hello, my name is Bradley Cook. I live in Bude, Cornwall. I am involved with a group called Surf Action, which is a charity dedicated to helping military veterans and their families affected by PTSD and physical injuries. The charity itself is fairly big, and the sessions me and a cluster of friends do is kind of a separate branch dedicated to one or two local guys. We are part of Surf Action, but it’s different. It’s hard to explain by email. We try and do a session a week ( Surf, Weather, Tide), depending. I had never done anything like this before. It sounds cheesy, but the experience has changed my life. Seeing the happiness that it brings to the guys we do it with is a feeling I just have no words for. What we do is so effective for the veterans, as we are not therapists, we are just a bunch of surfers and watermen.steve_volunteers We don’t judge or treat them like they are ill. All we do is give them the opportunity to experience the love and passion we have for the water.

The main guy we do it for is Steve Binns. He is paralyzed from the chest down. We have a customized surf board to suit his needs. What this man has achieved in a fairly short time scale is incredible. The local local life guards help out so much, driving him down to the beach if they are on duty. All of us have full time jobs, so generally the can only time we can do the sessions is after 6 when the life guards finish. The local council was letting us use one of their all terrain wheelchairs to take Steve to the waters edge. Out of the blue, they decided to stop allowing this when the lifeguards are off duty. One or two of us are trained life guards, and the rest are either surf instructors or have 5 + years surfing, so are more than competent in the water.

What we are doing at the moment is laying him on the board and carrying him down to the water. We have only noticed it now, as the beaches are getting very busy, as it’s holiday season. It is not a hardship for us, as we would carry him to to all corners of the earth if we had to. It comes across as Steve doesn’t care, but he is an old army veteran. As you can imagine, he’s very stubborn and will always put on a strong front. But he has given so much for this country and been paralyzed for a long time. He already has people staring all the time, and when you walk across the beach in the summer carrying a man on a surfboard, there are a lot of people staring. Steve doesn’t deserve this. The process that we are taking to get access to the chair we more than likely will, but it will be a very long time until we do. So I am trying other ways. I am not emailing you as a member of surf action. They don’t know that I’m seeking charity. I am emailing you as Bradley Cook. If there is any chance you could donate an all terrain chair, that would be fantastic.



After reading this email and speaking with Bradley, we were able to find a wheelchair that would suit Steve’s needs.  Just today we received this letter and update from Gary Howes, a member of the Bude Surf Action Volunteer group.

“Dear Wheelchair Foundation,

I do hope you are well. I am Garry Howes, a proud member of the Bude Surf Action Volunteer group. I would like to thank  you on behalf of our group for the generous donation of a wheelchair from your fantastic organisation to Steve, our inspirational friend. We are proud of Brad’s initiative in contacting you. I am delighted to tell you that the wheelchair has duly arrived, and has been used most successfully in transporting Steve to the seashore in order that he can surf accordingly.

I respectfully propose we stay in touch – and we will continue to inform you of our group’s activities. I can assure you that the donation of your wheelchair is a significant building block in developing our group. I am in the process of distributing the story of how we came to receive the wheelchair, accompanied with the photos we are sending you.

Yours sincerely

Garry Howes




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This article was written by Lou Bender for the Tallahassee Democrat and has been edited for content length. To read the original online article click here.  Images were provided by Capt. Scott Barry, Special Operations / Field Operations Supervisor Leon County EMS.

As one of the 81 World War II veterans privileged and humbled to be on the May 11 Honor Flight to Washington and the WWII Memorial, I want to share some of the special meanings from this event.

Honorflight(70)At Baltimore/Washington International airport, we were greeted by representatives of the Honor Flight Network that now covers more than 120 hubs in 41 states. We boarded three buses for the trip to D.C., and we had a police escort with lights and sirens blasting and opening for our caravan down the busy parkway and through the bustling city traffic. Most of us never had seen police lights blinking in front of us, but some admitted they had seen them in the rear view mirror over the years.

After passing the Capitol, White House and various government buildings, described and explained by wonderful local guides, we arrived at the WWII Memorial.

Our first excitement was to learn that the tall, handsome man standing close to where we would exit the bus was none other than Earl Morse, the founder of the Honor Flight program. He was a physicians’ assistant in a veterans’ hospital, and many of his WWII patients lamented they never would see the WWII Memorial completed in 2004. As a private pilot and moved by the fact several of his patients had passed away, he enlisted volunteers from an aero club in Dayton, Ohio, then undertook fundraising to transform an idea to reality. In May 2005, six small planes flew 12 WWII veterans to realize their dream. On Saturday, the Tallahassee Honor Flight was one of five, with others from New York, West Virginia, Tennessee and Texas.

Each of us was moved by the memorial. We learned from the guide that the word “veterans” is not used for the WWII Memorial, as it is for others. The reason is that it is intended to honor not only the military but also the women, children, and men on the home front. The “greatest generation” should be known to include every woman who labored in the defense industry or in the fields, and every child who supported U.S. Bond campaigns and recycling. Our nation’s might was a united effort to win for God and country.

Honorflight(165)The memorial is located between the Washington and Lincoln monuments, which represent the beginning of our nation and then the saving of a united states. WWII thus is viewed as saving the world from domination.

The Price of Freedom part of the memorial is a wall of stars behind a reflecting pool, with each star representing 100 American service personnel who died or remain missing in the war, for a total of 405,399.

We were privileged to witness a changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknowns at Arlington before returning to BWI, with our police escort clearing the way.

As we entered the airport, we were greeted by Honor Flight folks again, but also several lines of service men and women, clapping and shouting their thanks. At the gate area and just before boarding our return flight, our wheelchair comrades had a special treat. Miss Maryland wished each of them a happy farewell, and when of of the guys requested a kiss, he promptly received one on his cheek. Thereafter, the next one received the same, until one requested that she sit on his lap – and she did, to his joy and our laughter. After we boarded our plane, we heard an announcement for “mail call,” one of the most cherished moments for us overseas. Then each vet was given a manila envelope with letters written by schoolchildren, politicians and family members.

How touching to read the children’s letters and how meaningful for each of us. Then our return flight and an unbelievable welcoming home that commenced with a water salute by the Tallahassee Fire Department and was followed with a parallel-line honor guard of men and women again showing love and respect.

We could hear the swing band playing WWII songs as friends and family gave hugs of welcome.

The greater meaning is not the exciting, well planned and emotionally rewarding trip, but rather the fact there is faith, hope and charity that abounds in Tallahassee and neighboring communities.


Lou Bender is a Professor Emeritus at Florida State University. Contact him at louisbender@comcast.net

Article in it’s entirety from Tri-Valley Times on 3/7/2013

PLEASANTON — Robbie Brumm has new found empathy for the disabled after spending a day rolling around school in a wheelchair.

“It was a little more work than I expected,” the 14-year-old said. “You have a different perspective in a wheelchair. Everyone else is able to walk around, but you’re not. Toward the end of the day, I wanted to walk because it was so slow getting around.”

Robbie Brumm, 14, gets one of the wheels of his wheelchair stuck while trying to get around campus at Hart Middle School in Pleasanton on Feb. 27, 2013. Students were given the opportunity to try out some wheelchairs on campus as part of a district wide fundraiser for the Rotary Club and the Wheelchair Foundation. (Dan Honda/Tri-Valley Times Staff)

Brumm was among 42 Hart Middle School students who spent at least half a school day using a wheelchair to get a feel for how disabled people live.

“It lets students experience life in a different way,” leadership teacher Stacy Webb said. “They’ll learn that it’s not easy getting around. It’s good to have the experience of feeling different and the difficulty of getting around.”

Hart students took part in the three-day wheelchair exercise as part of the school district’s campaign to raise money for the Danville-based Wheelchair Foundation. The nonprofit group raises funds to provide wheelchairs for disadvantaged people around the world.

“The district goal is to raise $42,000,” Webb said. “That would buy a crate of wheelchairs or 280 wheelchairs. We’re going to send them all to Guatemala.”

When the foundation offered to loan wheelchairs for students to use, Webb jumped at the chance.

“It will raise awareness,” she said. “Any time we don’t understand something, we tend to joke about it or make fun of it. Hopefully, it will help students understand the situation a little more and be more compassionate about what people in wheelchairs go through every day.”

Eighth-grader Lekha Kesavan signed up to ride in a wheelchair all day to experience life on wheels.

Lekha Kesavan, 13, makes her way through a door in a wheelchair at Hart Middle School in Pleasanton on Feb. 27, 2013. Students got to try out some wheelchairs on campus as part of a districtwide fundraiser for the Rotary Club and the Wheelchair Foundation. (Dan Honda/ Tri-Valley Staff)

“I wanted to know what people in wheelchairs have to deal with every day,” the 13-year-old said. “I was surprised at how dependent I was, especially in the tight aisles in the classroom. It was really hard to push myself. I wasn’t expecting it to be that much trouble. I realized how tough it was to roll myself and to turn.”

“After a while, my arms got sore,” eighth-grader Elena Angst added. “By the end of the day, I figured out ways to maneuver better. It was a good experience.”

The students admitted they often relied on the kindness of classmates for a friendly push and help getting around campus.

“Now that I know what they have to go through, I understand more,” Kesavan said. “I learned how much trouble it is for the disabled to move every day.”

This article taken in it’s entirety and written by Jody Morgan appeared in both the Danville Today News as well as the Alamo Today. 

The Wheelchair Foundation has delivered nearly 920,000 wheelchairs in over 150 countries since its inception in 2000. As founder Kenneth Behring’s original goal of giving one million wheelchairs to disabled individuals around the world nears fulfillment, global need continues to grow. An estimated 100 million people unable to afford a wheelchair are waiting in hidden corners of the earth for the chance to experience the empowerment of mobility.

Josh Routh connects with a nonagenarian in Tlaquepaque, Mexico, one of many wheelchair recipients from 4-96 years of age hea has met in Latin America. Photo courtesy of Don Routh

Wheelchairs were not among the donation Behring was packing in his private plane in 1999 when LSD Charities (the humanitarian outreach branch of the Latter Day Saints) asked him to drop off their aid packages en route to his African destination  He readily agreed. Included in that cargo were six wheelchairs bound for a hospital in Romania. “Little did I know” he writes, “that those six wheelchairs would change the direction of my life.”

Behring, a successful Danville developer, defines the joy generated by setting a wheelchair recipient’s dreams in motion as the acheivement of purpose. In his 2004 autobiography Road to Purpose, he recount, “I lifted a small Vietnamese girl from the ground and placed her in a wheelchair. In that instant, she found hope…Her face opened into a smile, her eyes as bright as the noontime sky. And I knew for all she had changed in that moment, I had changed even more.”

Initially, Behring explored recycling used wheelchairs. The process proved the reverse of cost-effective. Packaging for shipment added to the expense of parts and labor for repairs. Then Behring asked manufacturers to design a durable wheelchair priced according to the high volume of orders he anticipated. One product seemed perfect, but it required two hours to piece together when uncrated. Today’s model comes in five sizes, ordered with regular or all-terrain tires, and can be assembled in 15 minutes. Averaging shipping costs to all destinations, the Foundation can deliver each wheelchair for just $150.  In Bolivia a comparable product costs $1,700.  In many countries, the price of a wheelchair exceeds an average laborer’s annual income.

The Wheelchair Foundation runs an administratively lean operation, funneling virtually every dollar into providing wheelchairs. Volunteers and service organizations across America do much of the fundraising. Unanimously declaring the positive return on their investment inestimable donors traveling on distribution trips pay their own expenses.  On the receiving end, similar groups arrange local logistics including identification of recipients and appropriate configuration of the wheelchairs they require. They also fund and coordinate transportation to remote locations where wheelchairs are most needed.  Rotary International, with clubs in over 200 countries, is frequently involved in all aspect of the process.

Since Bill Wheeler, founder of Blacktie Transportation, invited them on their first journey, Josh Routh and his father Don have made 20 distribution trips to 11 countries. In the remote town Juigalpa, Nicaragua, they met a 26 year-old woman who had been waiting eight years to acquire the wheelchair she needed to utilize the scholarship to Managua University she earned as a high school honors graduate.  Finally enabled to pursue her studies, she chose psychology so she could hep families coping with disabilities   In poorer places, when one family member is disabled, another often has to stay home from school or work to act as a caregiver.

Josh tears up as he describes a recipient brought to a wheelchair distribution in a wheelbarrow and another crawling through the dust to get there. Born with cerebral palsy, Josh has never walked.  Although doctors predicted he would remain a quadriplegic, never uttering an intelligible word, the 33-year old San Ramon resident drives his own car and lives independently. A cashier at Nob Hill, Josh dedicates much of his time to aiding others.

Hayward students connected with peers in El Salvador by sending wheelchairs and t-shirts.

“When you give someone the gift of mobility, you are giving them freedom and dignity…and when someone has freedom and dignity then they have hope for the future,” explains Don Routh.  Now retired, Don spreads awareness of the worldwide need for the means of mobility and the elation engendered by improving the life of each wheelchair recipient.  One of his initiatives at a Hayward elementary school gave low-income Latino students the opportunity to celebrate joy in their joint accomplishment: raising enough money to send six wheelchairs to less fortunate peers in El Salvador.

Don Routh plans to introduce the program the “Three Amigos” (Don, Josh and Bill) are currently piloting with the Pleasanton Unified School District to additional area school districts this spring. They provide live and video presentations, posters, collection containers, and fundraising ideas. Wheeler offers Blacktie’s community bus free for one field trip per school to either the Blackhawk Museum/Wheelchair Foundation exhibits or a wheelchair sport event.  Ten wheelchairs are available for schools to borrow in rotation for students to test drive or use in fundraising races or sport competitions. For information, email donrouth@comcast.net

Eva Carleton, Regional Director of Operations of Latin America and the Caribbean, travels on 3-4 distribution trips a year while coordinating the delivery of 40-50 projects. Every working day she helps provide someone with what sh considers a basic human right: a wheelchair.  “Without a wheelchair,” Carleton notes, “you have to ask for everything you need.”  Eva’s mother’s quality of life improved dramatically once she accepted how enabling the device could be. She no longer has to ring for a nurse every time she wants a simple object like a tissue.

In a Colombian community several hours from Bogota, Carleton met a woman who had been unable to work for five years due to a spinal injury.  Thanks to her Foundation wheelchair, she was back at her job.  Minutes later, Eva encountered another wheelchair recipient happily earning money keeping parked cars safe.

“It’s always a joy to give someone a wheelchair and it is an even greater joy to personally watch and hear how that wheelchair improved their life,” explains David Behring, President of the Wheelchair Foundation.  David met Tran Nghia in 2003.  Born with a neurological disorder, the Vietnamese high school student depended on family and friends to carry her everywhere.  She needed a wheelchair to attend university to study English and become a doctor.  The following year David visited her family and they kept in touch.  In November 2012 they met again in Hanoi.  “Nghia unfortunately could not become a doctor due to her disability but she did learn English and translates documents for a Vietnamese company.  … Her smile was as radiant as I remembered it back in 2003.”

A wheelchair recipient with Kenneth Behring (right). Photo courtesy of the Wheelchair Foundation

Kenneth Behring make a point of shaking the hand of every wheelchair recipient.  “All we ask in return is a smile.”  Partnering with non-governmental agencies permits the Wheelchair Foundation to give the gift of mobility with no strings attached.  Creating global friendship and promoting the joy of giving are additional aspects of this non-profit organization’s mission “to deliver a wheelchair to every child, teen, and adult in the world who needs one, but cannot afford one.”

The Wheelchair Foundation’s annual Charity Ball at the Blackhawk Museum February 23rd is open to the public as are all Foundation fundraisers.  Jeff Behring, Director of Special Benefits, offers a Wine for Wheels private party plan getting rave reviews nationwide as a means for finding personal purpose while sharing fun with friends.  To register for the Charity Ball, plan a Wine for Wheels event, learn more about Foundation activities or to make a donation, visit www.wheelchairfoundation.org. Road to Purpose is available at the Danville Library.