Rotary’s wheelchair initiative brings joy



April 12, 2013 - 12:00 AM

Delivery of 280 wheelchairs to Guanajuato, Mexico, with the majority going to patients at a children’s rehabilitation center, drew a reception that “made us feel like rock stars,” Brenda Nelson told Iola Rotarians Thursday.
Nelson and her husband, Larry, assistant governor of Rotary District 6110, are from Mountain Home, Ark. They told local Rotarians they had been on several wheelchair distribution missions and found the experience fulfilling.
“We all have been touched and overwhelmed,” Larry Nelson said.
Wheelchairs come from Rotarian efforts as well as others — a grade school class in Mountain Home has raised $50,000 over the years — and go to recipients of all ages living in poor circumstances in Mexico and other countries.
The Nelsons’ first distribution trip was to Mexico in 2009, an area by bus two hours drive west and an hour north of Cancun. People there live in primitive homes made of easily obtained materials at hand and with cardboard lining walls “in the nice homes,” Brenda Nelson said.
One home contained five generations, with a elderly grandmother and toddler sleeping indoors, others in hammocks outdoors the year-round.
Before being given a wheelchair, one man “had gotten around for years on a hospital Port-a-Potty with small wheels,” she said. “He put down the lid” and scooted about.
Two years ago the Nelsons joined one of the five-day distribution journeys to Jamaica. They delivered wheelchairs to St. Monica’s Home for the Aged, with the chairs mainly going to adults who had had legs amputated because of advanced diabetes.
Before they got wheelchairs, recipients spent their time since amputations sitting and seldom going anywhere, Larry Nelson said.

ON THE DAY the Rotary team arrived at the children’s rehab center at Guanajuato, Mexico, the children eligible for chairs were called in.
“Some had been waiting in line for seven hours,” when Rotarians arrived, Nelson said.
Chair sizes had been determined ahead of time and the distribution went quickly, with center employees having it well organized, he added.
Most of the children’s mobility problems came from poor sanitation and lack of prenatal care for their mothers, Brenda Nelson said.
Their second day at Guanajuato, the Rotarians took wheelchairs to homes in the area, where those needing the convenience had been identified earlier.
The Nelsons said during each of the distribution trips they took along their grandsons, who shared the adulation of recipients and also embraced the fulfilling experience of helping others.
The Iola Club, which raises money for local, national and international benevolent programs, has given money in the past to help with purchase of wheelchairs, which cost $150 each. Thursday club members voted unanimously to send the Nelson home to Arkansas with a check for $150 to buy another wheelchair.

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