Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 27, 2009
Knights' gift of mobility wheels around the globe
The fraternal order raised money to purchase 12,000 wheelchairs
Jerry O'Connor, state wheelchair chairman for the Alberta/Northwest Territories, stands by a wheelchair like the Knights are sending overseas.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
CALGARY – The Knights of Columbus are changing lives with the gift of mobility.
The Knights joined Wheelchair Foundation Canada in providing free wheelchairs to children, teens and adults worldwide who are without mobility and cannot otherwise afford a wheelchair.
“The Knights have actually been involved for a few years now, but here in Alberta we were a little slow in getting off the mark,” said Jerry O’Connor, with Father Albert Newman Council #8470 in Calgary.
Many people around the world are deprived of mobility by war, disease, accidents, natural disaster and advanced age. An estimated 100 million people with physical disabilities worldwide need wheelchairs, yet less than one per cent have access to one.
RESTORE MOBILITY, DIGNITY
The Catholic men’s fraternal organization is committed to delivering a wheelchair to everyone who needs one. They are helping to restore mobility, and give hope, freedom, dignity and independence to those in need.
The working relationship between the Knights and the Wheelchair Foundation Canada began in 2003. Since then, the Knights have sponsored the delivery of more than 12,000 wheelchairs to people in desperate need of wheels.
In many developing countries, the only way for a person with physical disabilities to be mobile is to crawl along the ground or be carried by family or friends. Some choose to stay in bed or in the corner of a room for years at a time, sometimes the rest of their lives.
“To see these kids, no arms, no legs, doing a wheelie on these chairs, it’s really something,” said O’Connor, who was appointed the state wheelchair chairman for the Alberta/Northwest Territories jurisdiction.
TEARS OF JOY
The tears of joy from those receiving the wheelchairs are indisputable signs of their gratitude, he said.
“These people in poverty, when you see them and they are presented with these chairs, at times there may be some language barriers. But I’ll tell you one thing, when you see those tears falling, that’s all the talk you need to see or hear,” said O’Connor.
The wheelchairs are distributed to 151 countries, but donors can specify which country they want their wheelchair going to.
The wheelchairs are purchased in bulk, resulting in a significant cost savings.
“Normally these chairs would go for about $650, and we are getting them for $150 each,” said O’Connor.
In the global economic crisis when getting somebody to donate $10 is tough, he said that this year’s provincial goal has been set at a realistic and achievable $50,000.
“Keeping in mind the situation financially that many, many people are feeling the pinch these days, it’s becoming more difficult for charities,” he said.
O’Connor is trying to generate as much awareness and publicity as possible for this cause.
“For presentations I have a wheelchair that I bring along with me, and we show some videos and pictures and, of course, we always have donation forms,” he said.
Christiana Flessner, executive director for Wheelchair Foundation Canada, was in Calgary on March 22. She did a presentation at St. Patrick Parish. O’Connor and his K of C council donated $2,500 to the foundation.