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.

This story was written by Josh Burroughs  Chair, Silicon Valley Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation, Wheelchair Ambassador, Rotary Club of San Jose

Gandhi said it best: “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

I can’t think of a better way to describe the feelings felt on our immersive wheelchair distribution in Monterrey, Mexico, a joint venture between the Rotary District 5170 (Bay Area) and the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation. 

Josh Burroughs Monterey Mexico

Josh and members of the Rotary Districts 5160, 5170, 7090 and 5730 in Monterey Mexico during the delivery of 560 wheelchairs.

I had the honor of serving on this mission trip delivering 560 wheelchairs and participating in hands on service projects with our local Rotarian partners.  This life changing experience (now my 8th wheelchair distribution to date) continues to affect me as a constant reminder of the many blessings we have here in the states, and our obligation to reach outside comfort zones to share our gifts of time, talent and treasure with others.

What was equally inspiring was the sheer generosity of our donors towards this project.  In less than 8 months, starting with a modest challenge grant from the Silicon Valley Chapter and Rotary 5170 District Governor Susan Valenta, the campaign caught on like wildfire throughout the Bay Area Rotary Clubs – a huge outpouring of support from individuals, businesses, and foundations.  The fundraising campaign culminated with a grand reception at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, where individual donors had a chance to meet Wheelchair Foundation founder, Ken Behring, who gave an inspiring speech in thanks for the continued support of Rotary International over the past 15 years.

Wheelchair recipients in Monterey MexicoThis tangible gift of mobility and its life changing impacts were sourced locally, and distributed globally, but the effects on the lives of the recipients can only be briefly documented through my experience delivering the chairs.  The true impact will be lifelong, and one in which entire family units are transformed.

Led by Rotary International Director Brad Howard, Rotary District 5170 Governor Susan Valenta, and District 5170 Governor Elect Jeff Orth, our 20 person team landed in Monterrey in April, 2016.  Building on a decade long partnership with the Monterrey Rotarians, the team divided into groups to serve the local communities. 

I personally participated in the renovation of the children’s library in Garcia, Nuevo Leon; swinging sledge hammers, painting, landscaping – the kids helped us out too, but they got more paint on themselves that on the walls! 

The primarily industrial city (think packaging and manufacturing of Mary Kay products, Kia Motors, etc) has an ever-increasing influx of migrants looking for work.  Very poor areas dealing with issues surrounding homelessness and housing juxtaposes an increased amount of new commercial development & construction in the downtown core.

Amid this changing landscape are the diverse stories of the individuals receiving mobility.  From children to adults, from birth defects to car accidents, the stories highlight the need for us to continue on this mission, and this is only the beginning!

Wheelchairs lined up for deliveryCheck back soon for a follow-up article on our 2nd Mission trip to Panama in October 2016 where we will be delivering another 560 wheelchairs in this Central American outpost.

…and Thank You again for all your support!

-Josh Burroughs

Chair, Silicon Valley Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation

Wheelchair Ambassador, Rotary Club of San Jose

20160212_235629In February of this year, Rotarians from Western North Carolina, District 7670, traveled to the Philippines to deliver wheelchairs and other aid to the disabled and less fortunate Filipino citizens with Districts 3820 and 3810. District 3810 consists of clubs from Manila, Pasay, Cavite and Occidental Mindoro and District 3820 consists of clubs from the Southeastern Quezon, Mindoro Oriental and Camarines.

The five Rotarians from District 7670 (Bill Biddle, Isaac Owolabi, Elbie Stiles, Charles “Chuck” Killian and his wife Sharon) all travelled together, each paying his or her own expenses, to participate in this life-changing experience. One hundred ten wheelchairs were distributed in six cities within the two hosting districts.

Philippines Wheelchair Team in Daet, Camerines Sur, Philippines Feb 2016

Philippines Wheelchair Team in Daet, Camerines Sur, Philippines Feb 2016

The team also participated in a medical mission for indigent senior citizens, visited a High School in Pasay City to see desks that were donated to the senior class, visited Blessed Ville Angels Special Education Learning Center and a Music Therapy Program in Tondo in District 3810.

“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to represent our district and to serve others in need. As a team, we were able to have a positive impact on the lives of individuals who are now better off. Thank you for the opportunity to serve others.”

Bob Slayback, president of the Lodi Rotary Club, helps prepare wheelchairs for distribution in Mazatlan.

Every year for the past 11 years, the Rotary Club of Foster City has been going to Mazatlan, Mexico to help the less fortunate. The original project was distributing wheelchairs to those without mobility and without the means to obtain it on their own. Since its inception, the project has grown to include building schools and playgrounds.

In October of this year, nearly 70 Rotarians and local Interact Club students, who were led by Linda and Jon Grant, set off to continue the mission of helping those in need. With them was President of the Lodi Rotary Club, Bob Slayback, who accompanied the group to help plan future trips for his fellow club members. Dr. Grant combines contributions received from District Coordinators, such as those forwarded by Tom Harmon of District 5810, and then applies for matching grants from The Rotary Foundation.

Wheelchairs were delivered in person to recipients who were unable to leave their homes, and those who were able to drive or get rides into town received their wheelchair in front of hundreds of family, friends and Rotarians. In total, over 500 wheelchairs were given to individuals, young and old, who had never experienced mobility.

Rick Pietrykowski, of the Rockwall Breakfast Rotary Club, described his experience, saying, “As delightful as it was to see hundreds of smiling children’s faces, it tugged at our hearts to see the tears of many flavors on the faces of the wheelchair recipients: tears of joy mixed with tears of pain during the physical act of moving a torn body into the wheelchair, tears of gratitude intermixed with tears of regret for being in need of the gift, and tears of excitement for their new-found freedom, washing over the tears of being at a disadvantage in a disadvantaged land.”

The Gift of Mobility

By: Allison Meagher Paoli

Donald C. Kurth
March 09, 1944 - Nov. 17, 2009

We all have a story. Actually, we all have many stories; some are happy and some are not, some are of struggle and hardship, and some are inspirational stories of triumph. This narrative is a combination of each of these elements. It is my honor and privilege to tell the story of a man whose endeavor began before my days as a Rotarian, but whose legacy will continue on for those suffering with polio and other handicapping conditions around the globe. It is a story of true friendship that one man from the Lake Havasu City Rotary Club, AZ, took on in the name of a dear friend. It was Chuck Denney’s mission to make Don Kurth’s struggle and passing a victory and tribute for all who adored him; one man, even though deceased, has made a difference world-wide.

Don Kurth was born in March of 1944. At the age of 18 months, he was stricken with polio. Throughout the course of his life, Don needed an iron lung to help him breathe, braces for his legs allowing him to walk, crutches to lean on, and eventually, a wheelchair for freedom to move about. While many people would have allowed this disease to consume them, Don was not that type of man. He lived his life to the fullest. He was a loving and devoted husband to his wife Sandie, and a wonderful father to their three sons. Don was also an inspiration to his friends.

Everyday was an inconvenience for Don Kurth, but in the eyes of his peers, you would never know it. He was the Manager of the Reverse Mortgage Department of Wells Fargo Bank, and very good at his job; but what most of us would characterize as an hour or less “morning routine” typically took Don two and a half hours to accomplish. Every morning, Sandie would greet Don with a cup of coffee, and together they would work to prepare him for his day. On Mondays, Don went to the Lake Havasu City Rotary Club meetings where his friends would show up early, wait in the parking lot, and stay late to assist him with his wheelchair so he could attend the meetings; and they did so, happily! And although Don could have used a motorized wheelchair, it wasn’t what he wanted. His chair was simple, and gave him the freedom he needed with just the right amount of independence to meet each day.

On the morning of November 17, 2009, Sandie Kurth went to wake her husband, only to find that Don had passed away in his sleep.

Donald C. Kurth was a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International and a Rotary Foundation Benefactor. Kurth’s family requested that the Lake Havasu City Rotary Club preside over his memorial, and they did, with heavy hearts in memory of a friend and fellow Rotarian. Like all of us, there are people who touch our lives in ways that motivate us to commemorate them through acts of good will. For Chuck Denney, Don Kurth was that person.

Denney, a lifelong Rotarian, had been on two life-changing trips internationally with Rotary. In 2004, Denney went with a group to Cairo, Egypt where they actually placed drops of the polio vaccine on the tongues of infants on National Immunization Day. National Immunization Day allows Rotarians to enter countries for vaccination distribution where there is typically civil unrest. They are protected by local military while trying to help the country’s people. In 2005, Denney went to Mexico with Rotary International to distribute new wheelchairs to people in need. Having had these two incredible humanitarian experiences brought R.I.’s polio and wheelchair causes near and dear to his heart. Over the years, Denney recalled these experiences, and has said, “There is nothing in the world like the feeling you get from putting drops of vaccine on the tongue of a baby, or the joy of picking up a person who can’t stand or walk, and placing them into a brand new wheelchair. It is unlike anything I’ve ever felt.”

The sadness that Denney felt after Kurth’s passing gave him a new energy about the two causes that he personally thought were of high importance as a Rotarian. Whether a person was constrained to a wheelchair because of polio, or for some other crippling circumstance, Chuck Denney witnessed the value of the wheelchair through the eyes of Don, and became determined to remember him by raising money to buy and distribute wheelchairs, just like the one Kurth used.

Sandy Kurth, widow of Rotarian Don Kurth, gives Chuck Denney an extra push forward beside Lake Havasu City, Arizona's famed London Bridge.

Jeannie Morgan, District Governor of 5490, appointed Denney to become the “Wheelchair Chairperson” for a period of two years in 2009. Denney researched and found a company who could supply wheelchairs for roughly $125 per chair, give or take. It is the policy of the Rotary Foundation to fund matching grants, so Denney decided the best way to go about raising money for his project was to ask individual contributors to sponsor a wheelchair for about half the total cost.

In February of 2010, during a weekly meeting at the Lake Havasu City Rotary Club, Denney persuaded every member of the club to stand up and donate for wheelchairs. The unanimous reaction gave him the momentum to go to the other two Rotary Clubs in Lake Havasu City, AZ and ask for additional donations. The response to his request continued to be overwhelming; therefore, Denney took his pursuit throughout District 5490. During this time, Denney learned that Jon B. Grant, PDG, in Foster City, CA, was coordinating wheelchair money from his region. We all know the expression: when it rains, it pours… well, when Denney’s fundraising was initiated, the goal was to raise enough money to buy 280 wheelchairs, or one container, but with the help of Jon B. Grant, PDG, George Wheeler, PDG, “Chairman of the District Foundation Grant Program,” District Governor Jeanie Morgan, and Charlie Tegarden, PDG, what was once a “slight drizzle” turned into a “downpour” in wheelchair resources. Collectively, they were able to find wheelchair-designated funds from Rotary Clubs in California and Arizona. With the collaboration and effort of these five dedicated people, along with donation collections and funds previously allocated for wheelchairs, what was once the goal of raising enough money to buy 280 chairs for Mexico, turned into enough money to purchase 2800 wheelchairs that would be distributed all over the globe.

Denney is so grateful to the Lake Havasu City Rotary Club for stepping up to sponsor his endeavor on behalf of Don Kurth. That February day, when the club stood up unanimously, marked the beginning of an incredible journey that would bestow thousands of physically challenged people, along with their devoted caregivers (people like Sandie Kurth), with an increased quality of life.

The details and the passion in this story are far more powerful when told by Denney himself; his undertaking has been a gift of mobility for thousands! It started with a deep level of friendship between two people and the mutual admiration they shared. It transpired because of who Don Kurth was to his fellow Rotarians, and perhaps the most extraordinary part of the story is… that Denney and fellow District 5490 Rotarians were on their way to Puebla, Mexico to deliver the first container of wheelchairs, the week of November 17, 2010; exactly a year from the death of a beloved friend, to indeed, celebrate his life.

Photos courtesy Rotary District 5490.