HKA began providing communications and public relations services to Free Wheelchair Mission in early 2017, and it’s been an action-packed year, as the faith-based organization celebrated a spectacular achievement more than 15 years in the making. Based in Irvine, Free Wheelchair Mission provides wheelchairs at no cost to those with disabilities in the developing world. This summer, the humanitarian nonprofit reached 1,000,000 wheelchairs delivered since its founding in 2001.
To commemorate the tremendous milestone, Free Wheelchair Mission invited three wheelchair recipients from Vietnam, Jamaica and El Salvador to its annual Miracle of Mobility gala at the Segerstrom Center of the Arts in July. The wheelchair recipients shared their stories, which included emotional, heartfelt accounts of how hard life was without a means of mobility, especially while endeavoring to go to school, work and yearning to provide for themselves and their families. The wheelchair recipients in attendance represented the 1,000,000 men, women and children in 93 countries whose lives have forever been changed with the “gift of mobility” from Free Wheelchair Mission. More than 700 attendees wiped away tears, beamed proudly and ultimately helped the event raise $1.5 million to help transform another 19,000 lives.
Free Wheelchair Mission began when visionary founder Don Schoendorfer, a biomedical engineer, visited Morocco and witnessed a disabled woman dragging herself across a busy street. Deeply moved by what he saw, he invented a durable, low-cost wheelchair that’s just $80 to produce and ship. In so doing, Schoendorfer delivered a solution to the 100,000,000 people in need of a wheelchair in the developing world. Eventually, he left his career as an engineer and began Free Wheelchair Mission.
Today, the organization is supported by a generous and spirited network of donors in Orange County and across the nation. With so many people still in need, Free Wheelchair Mission launched its 1 Million for 1 Million campaign on October 22 in Prescott, Arizona – the first of many visits to supporters in cities across the nation. The initiative will be highlighted by the screening of the new documentary, “Because No One Should Have to Crawl,” narrated by award-winning actor Sam Waterston, best-known for his role on television’s Law & Order. The documentary is part of the award-winning PBS series “Visionaries,” now in its 22nd season, which highlights rarely told stories of nonprofit organizations around the world that make a positive difference in their communities and beyond. The campaign is focused on motivating new and existing supporters to help reach the next Free Wheelchair Mission milestone – the distribution of the next 1,000,000 wheelchairs in half the time.
HKA is proud to help Free Wheelchair Mission as it lifts people off the ground, gives them hope and provides the means for a better life.