#Fun4the Disabled highlights a valuable charity, Free Wheelchair Mission, who provides wheelchairs to underserved populations around the world.
On screen text reads: Free Wheelchair Mission: The Bright Journey Ahead.]
[Dana Hindman appears on screen sitting at a booth with Free Wheelchair Mission materials. As she speaks, b-roll footage is shown of wheelchairs being manufactured and gifted.]
Free Wheelchair Mission is a humanitarian aid organization. We provide wheelchairs for people with disabilities in developing countries. We are the manufacturer and distributor of these great wheelchairs you see in front of me, the one, um, on my right is our iconic white lawn chair wheelchair that was designed back in 2001 by our founder Don Schoendorfer, and was distributed in over 93 countries around the world for 10 years! Um, then came along our GEN_2 wheelchair which is to my left, and this wheelchair comes in four sizes and is adaptable for people’s disabilities. It is a basic needs humanitarian aid wheelchair that’s used by over 70 distribution partners around the world.
So we actually have three generations of wheelchair, our GEN_1 wheelchair, is the white resin lawn chair wheelchair. And um, about 10 years later, so around 2010, our GEN_2 wheelchair which is the one to my left, is our powder blue rigid frame wheelchair that comes in four sizes. And then shortly after we designed our GEN_3 wheelchair, which is similar to our GEN_2, except it is a collapsible wheelchair for people who need to take their chairs into a city for work, for education, and they need to put it on another mode of transportation.
[Footage is shown of a citizen in Peru receiving a wheelchair. Spanish is spoken.]
[Back to Dana]
Free Wheelchair Mission was founded by our inventor and founder Don Schoendorfer, all the way back in 1979, Don and his wife Laurie took a trip to India and saw, um, a lady that was pulling herself along by her fingernails on the ground. And it left a huge impact on Don’s heart, took 20 years of building his life and taking care of his family before he went on another trip with his church back in California, Mariners Church, and he saw the same situation happening. And when he came home he asked himself the big question: “If I could have given this person something to help them, what would I have done for this person?” And the answer was a wheelchair. So he got to work and he designed our iconic white lawn chair wheelchair in his garage, and made 100 of these wheelchairs, and started to pass these wheelchairs out with the idea of showing that he created a solution, and he was going to write a big paper and distribute it into publications and go back to life as usual. But after delivering his first four wheelchairs, his pharmaceutical company went bankrupt in his– um, while he was away on that trip, and when he came home, he, um, felt called to start a nonprofit and start distributing these wheelchairs.
[Footage is shown of Don Schoendorfer working on a GEN_1 wheelchair.]
The white resin lawn chair, I can’t see how you could beat that. It’s left outdoors, it’s comfortable, people use them because they’re comfortable. They’re easy to clean, they’re white, they look sanitary and they’re pretty strong! So I got a $4 chair and two bicycle wheels for $6, so that’s $10. And I found a company in China, South China to make the container wheelchair, the first one and I didn’t have anybody to send it to.
[Another male is now on screen talking.]
Somebody mentioned to us, “I think there’s a guy in California who might have some wheelchairs”. So we called him, he answered the phone, and we said, “Hey, we just realized there’s a need in Peru, do you have any wheelchairs you could donate?” And he just said, “Can you give away 550 wheelchairs?” And we said, “Absolutely!” So, within the next few days it was in the water and it was on our way to us.
[On screen text reads: Free Wheelchair Mission started partnering with Camino de Vida in 2003. That year, the two organizations distributed Free Wheelchair Mission’s first container of wheelchairs to Peru in Ayacucho.]
We are always accepting volunteers and ambassadors at Free Wheelchair Mission, my role at Free Wheelchair Mission is National Ambassador Manager, and that just means I work with people who help us tell our story and fundraise for our wheelchairs to manufacture and distribute a wheelchair to a recipient around the world is only $80. Most of us cannot think of one thing that we can buy in our life with $80 that can transform our life. But this is truly the best gift that anyone um, can receive when they have a disability and they are stuck in their home, or stuck on a mat on the floor, and cannot get out of their home. They’re stigmatized, they’re marginalized, they’re looked down upon in their societies, and a wheelchair truly transforms their life and gives them access once again to education, to the workforce, or sometimes just simply freeing up a caregiver in order for that person to be able to go back and to provide for that family.
[Don is now seen putting together a wheelchair with two others in the room.]
-This is a milestone, it’s not only just the millionth chair, it’s…it’s a million lives that have been changed. I guess you would call the thing a memorial, to remember, never forget how you started.
We’re doin’ the first step of a huge battle that’s not even won in prosperous countries like the United States.
-It’s a dream that Don had, um, of course, not 1 million in Peru! But a million wheelchairs, a million lives changed, a million people that are no longer in the dirt.
You could say maybe it’s a turn in the page to the next chapter, but the book is gonna be a long book.
The 1 Millionth Chair.
So if I could inspire you with anything, I would say that getting involved and helping people and changing a life, one life at a time, is so rewarding. We– when we send out our containers of wheelchairs to our partners, what we ask for them in return, they receive this entire container of 550 wheelchairs at no charge. And when we send those out we ask them that they send us back stories. How did these wheelchairs impact the lives of the people that you gave them to? And we share those through our Friday story emails every week, you can go to our website and put a “/subscribe” and you can join our Friday stories and see the impact that we’re making around the world, but knowing that you can help share our story, you can help fundraise for wheelchairs, and you can be the solution for people in need. It’s so inspiring and rewarding that I encourage you to reach out to contact one of us at Free Wheelchair Mission and find out how you can get involved. We are a, um, a global organization that’s based in Irvine, California so, um, volunteers locally are great, but also ambassadors around the world are amazing to help us get our story out.
[Upbeat instrumental music continues. On screen text reads: Ability Expo, Chicago: Free Wheelchair Mission.]
[Voice off screen]
This is Vanessa Harris with fun4thedisabled. I’m here with Dana from Free Wheelchair Mission over at the Abilities Expo. Hi Dana!
How are you?
-I’m wonderful, thank you! So, so glad to be here this weekend.
Can you tell us a little bit more about what you have over here?
-We wanna educate people about the need for wheelchairs in the developing world. 70 million people need a wheelchair and have no access or cannot afford one. That’s a statistic from the World Health Organization, so the information you see at our booth here is just trying to bring attention to the need, and um, the wonderful thing is, is that $80, an $80 donation can manufacture and distribute this wheelchair into the hands of someone who needs one.
[Video footage is shown of a young boy receiving a wheelchair. Video ends with credit roll. Captioned by aslcaptions.com.]