Ambassador Highlight: Third Graders are at it Again!

Margaret with the kids in Mrs. Kohler's Class

Margaret with the kids in Mrs. Kohler’s Class

Last year we shared with you about Mrs. Kohler and her third grade class who lifted 24 individuals into their very own wheelchair. This year, Mrs. Kohler and her 3rd grade class are at it again for the third year in a row, this time raising 39 wheelchairs!!!

Mrs. Kohler said this year her students were incredibly creative and acted like little entrepreneurs selling hot chocolate on rainy days on Balboa Island in Southern California, Balboa bake salemaking homemade dog bones and selling them in the neighborhood while offering dog walking services. One little girl performed a clarinet recital in front of her family. Others did chores, bake sales, babysat, or just plain good deeds that they were rewarded for. One student helped grandma with her garden, another raked leaves, another tutored their sister, folded laundry, sold homemade jewelry and personal artwork. Some moved firewood, helped the neighbors move and sold hot apple cider. One little boy said, “I just asked for checks!” His name was Finn LeSieur and raised $1,000 alone. We all know he is going to be a phenomenal salesman one day. He just cuts to the chase and gets results.

bake sale

Ambassador Margaret Watkins came into their class the Friday before their fundraising date closed. She talked to them about Free Wheelchair Mission and explained to them why people need wheelchairs. She said when children are babies it is easy for parents to carry them around, but as they grow older, their arms and legs grow longer, they gain more weight because they are growing, and this becomes difficult for mommy and daddy to carry them to places they want to go to, like school. Margaret said the kids were wide eyed and concerned. She also talked about how sometimes people have accidents and are no longer able to walk. She asked if anyone in the class had a life changing experience like this before. One little girl raised her hand and said, “When my Mom told me I had to get glasses.” Another boy raised his hand and said, “Me too.” Another little girl said her life changed when her grandma died. Margaret then told them what a life changing gift a wheelchair is for these boys and girls and told them about a few of our wheelchair recipients. This only helped spark the children’s excitement!

The next week Margaret came back to the class and praised them all for their hard work. She presented each student with a Youth Ambassador award, each with their names on it. The certificate says, “In grateful recognition of their efforts in providing the gift of mobility for physically disabled men, women, and children around the world.” She also pinned each student with a FWM logo pin saying what an honor it is to be an ambassador for FWM.

We here at Free Wheelchair Mission are grateful to know we have kids hard at work to give others the gift of our wheelchair. They are helping grandma garden with the most sincere hearts and doing so many other misc. tasks in hopes their nickels and dimes will amount to mobility. As we continue our work this year, we are honored to know there is an extensive network of young and veteran Ambassadors who are doing great things for our cause in hopes that no one should have to crawl.

Ambassador Highlight: Why Jim Loves Free Wheelchair Mission!

Have we mentioned that we love our ambassadors? Well we do, and we are excited to introduce you to Jim Hardy who has been with us since 2005. Jim has provided roughly 700 wheelchairs —more than $48,000 raised to support our efforts worldwide!  He has been an amazing partner of ours and in May 2013 he and his wife Alice went to Bolivia to help distribute wheelchairs.

Jim Hardy

Something we love about our ambassadors is their unique story. Each ambassador has become a part of the Free Wheelchair Mission family for their own unique reasons. This is Jim’s story:

The first part of the equation is the need: People throughout the developing world who spend every minute of their lives with a disability that keeps many literally on the ground, in the dirt and filth, often isolated from any human contact save for those on whom they are dependent for even the most basic needs.  Their situation is very real and immediate to me.  No matter how many times I watch the FWM videos, they still bring tears to my eyes.  Each time I work for or think about FWM, I think about and feel that need, and I am reminded how incredibly fortunate I am to live where I do, to have what I have.

The second part of the equation is the response:  FWM is not the only organization my wife, Alice, and I have supported with time, money, or both.  December is donation time in our household, and I write and mail the checks.  They go to support things we believe in and care about, but I have to admit the whole process is pretty mechanical.  Except with FWM.  Each time a wheelchair is raised, either through my own donation or through the donation of someone with whom I have spoken, I know that somewhere in the world one person will receive a true miracle.  That person will be lifted off the ground and gain a dignity and a freedom they could hardly dare dream about.  Perhaps they will go to school or get a job.  Perhaps a family member upon whom they were totally dependent will go to school or get a job.  That one wheelchair will change lives!  That wheelchair is tangible and immediate, and I know that I have played a small part in changing lives and spreading love in a way that, for me, no other activity can come close to matching.  This is something that touches my heart and my soul.

I am so proud to be a part of all this!  That’s what FWM means to me.

group shot

We are so grateful to Jim for his touching testimony and his heart and dedication to our mission. We specifically want to honor Jim during this month of August. Jim and his wife Alice celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on the 24th. He also is celebrating a milestone Birthday!  Jim and Alice Young

Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, and many thanks, Jim, for your love of our mission! We are so grateful to you and glad that we can take a moment and celebrate you and all you do.

Monday Recap: Why I Give

Greetings and happy Friday Monday!

Last week we told you the story of Mike in Gabon and how a wheelchair had impacted his life. We received an amazing email from Viola, a supporter of ours in British Columbia, who was especially touched by Mike’s story. She told us about her own experience and why FWM was so important to her and we were so inspired and humbled that we wanted to share some of her words with you:

[Mike’s] story was most meaningful to me.  I live in Canada, and I contracted polio at age 22 when I was six months pregnant.  The baby arrived okay, but except for my arms and upper body, I was paralysed.  I spent 9 months in the hospital: several weeks before I was discharged, I was allowed to use a wheelchair.  What a wonderful day that was!  My husband wheeled me up and down through the hospital corridors.  I could see places again, rather than being confined to one room.  As time went on, I was able to get a newer model wheelchair, thanks to the Rotary Club, and throughout the ensuing 65 years, I have had the freedom a wheelchair gives.  The point of my message is:  in many countries, no one thinks twice about getting a wheelchair.  They are available in abundance.  But when we read your missives on giving wheelchairs to those who have had to struggle for years crawling around – my heart is deeply touched.  Keep up the good work! I pray for the wonderful work you are doing.  God bless you.

 –          Viola P., British Columbia


I cannot tell you how much it brightens our staff’s day when we receive a message like Viola’s telling us about how much being a part of FWM’s work means to them. Without all of you—people who make gifts of time or money, or simply offer their prayers—our mission could not be carried out. Thank you, Viola, for sharing your story with us. And thank you for your support.


Don Schoendorfer

Ambassador Highlight: Volunteer at the Office

Evan Nguyen - Volunteer

Evan Nguyen – Volunteer

We are pleased to introduce you to Evan Nguyen, who we’re recognizing with this week’s Ambassador Highlight. Evan is a huge support to our organization! We are so grateful to all our volunteers, and having a regular volunteer who is able to come in every week is such a blessing to our whole staff. It allows us to focus on other work so that we can continue to give out as many wheelchairs as possible and help keep our cost down.

Evan comes in every Friday and volunteers for a couple hours. While he is here he helps us keep our warehouse clean and organized, logs the display wheelchairs that have come back over the past week, preps the display wheelchairs that are going out in the following week, and helps us make the whole process move efficiently and effectively.

On top of that, Evan puts in time outside of the office to help us continue to do our best. He works hard to get his job done every week and will take the time it needs in or out of the office to do so. We cannot express in words how much we appreciate his sincere dedication!

Evan has also started working on a new project to help us better track our wheelchairs. He came up with the idea on his own and took the initiative to follow through with it. With his help, we will only continue to improve the way that our display wheelchairs are handled and stored.

When Evan was asked why he volunteers for us he said:

I chose to volunteer at FWM because I believe in the mission and I can see that God is doing great things through the mission.  I feel blessed to have this opportunity to be more intentional about loving and serving God’s people. 

We are so grateful for all that he does for us and continues to do out of the goodness of his heart! We honestly could not do all this without his consistent help. Thank you Evan!


Volunteer Opportunity: An Easter Together with Francis Chan


Hello all!

This Saturday (3/30) we have a volunteer opportunity at An Easter Together with Francis Chan at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, CA. We need people to help manage tables and booths, help with set-up and tear-down, and (especially) help with our Balloon Crew. If you would be interested in helping out we need about 25 people to handle shifts between 2-6PM.

We would love to see you there–if you want to help out send an email to Kayleigh: kbond[at]freewheelchairmission[dot]org!

Thanks for your help, you all are awesome!

Join Us Wednesday for Our Monthly Roll Around!

(Urgent) Volunteer Opportunity: Long Beach City Marathon this Sunday!

Hello everyone, we have a volunteer opportunity available this Sunday to help us out at the Long Beach City Marathon: we need people to give water to the runners at our Mile 7.5 water station. Last year’s event raised 29 people off the ground and into a wheelchair–we want this year to be even more successful but we can’t do it without your help.

It takes about 20 people to run the water station smoothly and we want you to be one of them! Here are the details:

What: Staff the water station (pass out water, cheer on runners, etc). Please be prepared for a physically active volunteering experience – you will be standing for several hours, and may be asked to lift or move objects up to 30 lbs.

When: This Sunday, October 7, from 5AM-Noon

Where: Mile 7.5 along the route: in the beach parking lot at the corner of Junipero Ave & E. Ocean Blvd near downtown Long Beach

We need to know by 3PM TODAY if you can help out–if you’re available please email Ariel at arigney[at]freewheelchairmission[dot]org and let her know!

Thanks, you’re awesome!