The SPAR Wheelchair Wednesday campaign achieved one of its primary objectives when the 1 000th wheelchair was handed over to a deserving recipient on September 19. It was a day of landmarks at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth, where SPAR Eastern Cape and the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities (APD) Nelson Mandela Bay celebrated the eighth year of the project’s existence.
From its start in 2012, when enough money was raised to donate 30 wheelchairs to needy users, the annual campaign has grown with every passing year. In 2019, a record donation of 180 wheelchairs was made, taking the total past the target of 1 000, with R2,8 million raised in that time to assist with job creation at the organisation.
Even more importantly, the APD is starting to impact on younger generations. APD executive director Brian Bezuidenhout said: “One of the big highlights was that more schools became involved this year. We had Collegiate Girls’ High School last year and this time they were joined by Grey High School, Lawson Brown High School and Pearson High School. We will have ten schools participating next year and we want our future leaders to be aware of what the needs are out there. We have to teach and empower the future generation of our city.”
Bezuidenhout also paid tribute to the businesses that participated in the campaign. “We had 41 companies this year and 182 participants, and we are grateful to everyone for participating in the campaign,” he said. “You are the reason this campaign works.”
A highlight of the event was an inspiring message by Nelson Mandela Bay entrepreneur Lindelwa Dabaza, who lost her sight when she was only 12. She has a three-year-old daughter, who went blind in February this year. Dabaza said it is essential to remove any negative thoughts when someone finds themselves in a difficult situation.
“I decided that it was no good asking, ‘Why me?’,” she said. “I just thought about what I could do to handle the situation and that helped me to change my mindset. It’s all in the mind and you have to be positive to make sure of a better life for yourself.”
In his keynote address, Nelson Mandela Bay executive mayor Mongameli Bobani assured the APD of the metro’s support and urged corporates in the city to throw their support behind the organisation. SPAR Eastern Cape sponsorships and events manager Alan Stapleton said it was very special for the company to be part of the initiative.
“It’s an absolutely amazing achievement to reach the target of 1 000 wheelchairs in eight years and part of our ethos is to help others to be more and to do more,” he said. “Wheelchair Wednesday ticks all the boxes because it not only assists those in need, it also helps other people to appreciate the difficulties of life in a wheelchair.
“It also exposes areas in our city where we have to improve facilities to make sure they are wheelchair-friendly and that everyone has access to the amenities, irrespective of their situations,” Stapleton concluded.