Gifting mobility

The pandemic didn’t stop Illinois Kiwanians from providing wheelchairs to children in need.

By Wendy Rose Gould

The coronavirus pandemic not only forced all of us to press pause on our “normal” lives, but also to find creative ways to keep doing the things we love. That’s exactly what many Kiwanis clubs around the world are doing, including the Golden K Quincy Kiwanis Club in Illinois. 

In December, the club began collaborating with Children’s Medical Ministries (CMM), a nonprofit organization that assists children and families in poor and developing countries. Their joint goal was to provide high quality, personally fitted Beeline wheelchairs to children with disabilities in Guatemala. 

“These Beeline wheelchairs are unique,” says Marvin Kerber, the club’s former secretary. “They provide more comfort, as they can be reclined to a position better suited to the child’s body, and the chair can be readjusted as the child grows. It also includes a desktop.” 

Not only does this wheelchair provide children the gift of mobility, it also enables them to go to school and pursue their education. 

“Children in poor and developing countries are many,” says Tieken. “There is little (or no) government assistance, and children are born with severe disabilities or develop illnesses that develop into mental and physical disabilities. The needs are many and ongoing.” 

Due to travel restrictions, the chairs are now fitted via Zoom, allowing physical therapists in the United States to connect with wheelchair technicians in Guatemala. CMM president Mary Tieken says this virtual fitting clinic serves as a prototype for future and ongoing cost-effective wheelchair distributions throughout the world. 

So far, the club has gifted three wheelchairs to Guatemalan children in need. For each, they’ve been able to view, via Zoom, the process of fitting and sending these children home with a new wheelchair. 

“Kiwanis clubs today do need to adjust to the times. Holding meetings is difficult, and getting attendance is difficult, especially for senior clubs,” says Kerber. “We need to continue being creative.”

This project was initiated and spearheaded by Kiwanis club member Robert Garmer, 91, who recently passed away from COVID-19. He was a beloved member of the club, and for many years was very active in supporting and helping CMM.

This story originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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