The annual Wheelchair Wednesday campaign, sponsored by SPAR Eastern Cape, continues to make a massive impact on the lives of people with mobility impairments – and this year it raised funds for the purchase of 180 wheelchairs.
The campaign, which is run in Nelson Mandela Bay by the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities (APD), aims to raise awareness about the challenges faced by people with mobility impairments and to generate funds to buy wheelchairs.
Every Wednesday in August, community and business leaders are invited to spend four hours in a wheelchair to experience for themselves what life is like in a wheelchair. For the first time this year, a school became involved when Collegiate schoolgirls joined the project.
APD chief executive Brian Bezuidenhout said they were thrilled to receive support for a second year from Network of Caring, who donated funds. On October 10, a total of 150 wheelchairs were donated with a further 30 to be handed over in Jeffreys Bay later in the month.
“We were also able to raise funds totalling just over R460 000 for the APD Work Centres,” said Bezuidenhout. In the past seven years, more than 800 wheelchairs have been handed over.
“We’ve donated 818 wheelchairs during this period plus the 30 to come at Jeffreys Bay. We’ve also had more than 1 500 people going through the Wheelchair Wednesday experience. Every person who has become involved has had their mind changed and this has been crucial in creating awareness of the many challenges people with disabilities face,” Bezuidenhout explained.
SPAR Eastern Cape sponsorship and events manager Alan Stapleton said Wheelchair Wednesday was an important and life-changing collaborative project.
“We often take the simple things in life for granted, but if you spend four hours in a wheelchair, you suddenly realise how difficult those things can be. It is also a reminder how inadequate some of our facilities are and what we should be doing to improve life for those in wheelchairs,” he noted.
He added that everyone who had been part of the campaign would have grown from the experience and learned to better understand the needs of others.
“When we give someone our time and we show we care for them, we give them hope and where there’s hope, there’s life. Most importantly, we have given more than 150 people the chance to roll out in their wheelchairs and experience a new sense of freedom. We may only have scratched the surface, but now they have an opportunity to experience the real world and to move out of the confines of a house or a room,” he said.
Stapleton paid special tribute to Bezuidenhout and his APD team for the work they put into making the campaign a success.
“Passion is a cornerstone of our philosophy at SPAR. If you want to see passion, you only need to spend time with these guys. They are totally committed and that’s what makes Wheelchair Wednesday such a success,” he concluded.