Greetings and happy Friday!
As Founder and President of Free Wheelchair Mission, I have had the pleasure of watching our annual Magic of Mobility event grow over the last 11 years. This year, thanks to you, I am humbled and honored to share that as a result of this year’s event, 13,935 people will now receive a wheelchair. What an incredible accomplishment!
There were many memorable moments from our evening. One that stands out to me most is this year’s Franklin Legacy Award recipient, Jeff Abbott. Jeff first heard about Free Wheelchair Mission in 2008, and has been working hard to mobilize his connections in his business, church, and community ever since. More than 3,673 disabled poor in Ecuador now have wheelchairs because of Jeff’s efforts. He shared that Jesus has inspired him to help the least if these; those who truly need assistance with someone listening to their story, hold their hand when they cry and provide the gift of mobility – he feels that he is blessed to be part of our mission. Jeff is not alone, there are many of you out there right now who are raising awareness about FWM and are providing mobility around the world with your efforts – THANK YOU!
I was also particularly pleased to share an update about what we call our Transformation Study. Our longitudinal research project that follows recipients in three different countries will help us understand the far-reaching impact that receiving a wheelchair has on their quality of life. While the study will not conclude until 2016, an important preliminary shows that 38% of the recipients who are part of the study report that they are now “employable”. Of this group, 24% now have jobs and credit our wheelchair as being responsible for them having their job! It is not just about the transaction of a recipient getting a chair – it is about us doing more to improve the power our wheelchair has to transform lives.
We were excited to introduce our special guest wheelchair recipient Manuel de Jesus Villegas Aviles from El Salvador to share his story with our guests. He shared that having a wheelchair has enabled him, an Iraqi Veteran, to remain in active service. He can now provide for his family which includes two children and a nephew. Manuel shared that while he was in Iraq, his primary duty was doing humanitarian work. He shocked the whole audience by sharing that while there he gave away wheelchairs to those who needed them – and the wheelchairs he helped deliver were Free Wheelchair Mission wheelchairs! Amazing!
I want to acknowledge our amazing event strategy team and volunteers, performance artist Stephen Fishwick, Bob Longman for the invocation and the FWM staff for organizing a wonderful evening with a purpose.
On behalf of the more than 781,000 wheelchair recipients in 91 countries worldwide we’ve served to date, as well as the 13,985 soon-to-be recipients as a result of this week’s event, I want to extend my most sincere appreciation to all of you, our attendees, sponsors, and supporters, who made each and every one of those wheelchairs possible. THANK YOU!