Rotary Happenings: Guest speaker talks about Rotary’s Wheelchair Foundation
As Americans, we live in a somewhat mobile society. Always rushing off to somewhere and constantly on the move. One of the many factors that helps us enjoy our lives to the fullest is our ability to be on the go we go to school, we go to work, and we go out to socialize. The fact is we enjoy the freedom of being able to independently take ourselves out in public and get to see and experience the world around us. Have you ever given any thought, as to what if you were not able to get around by yourself because of a physical limitation or handicap and had to depend on others to take you places and help take care of your private personal needs and the need to live a life beyond the doorsteps of your home?
The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club’s guest speaker on March 15 was one of the most amazing Rotarians in Southwest Florida, Steve Agis. He is the chair of the Rotary District 6960’s Wheelchair Foundation of Florida program and chair of the district’s Gift of Life program. The topic for the morning was the Wheelchair Foundation. Agis has been involved with the foundation in Florida for almost 20 years and has had the chance to speak to Rotary clubs across the state and beyond about the transformation a gift of a wheelchair can provide a person in need of one.
At least 25 million children and adults around the world need a wheelchair but cannot afford one. In some developing countries, the need is estimated to be as high as 6 percent of the total population, according to Jack Drury, director of the foundation’s South Florida office. There are many reasons for the need: polio, land mine injuries, birth defects, accidents, war injuries, old age, amputations due to diabetes and others. The foundation’s motto is “We change one life at a time.” Along with mobility, the foundation offers hope, greater self-sufficiency, renewal and freedom. The gift of a wheelchair to a person in need provides hope. This gift gives them opportunity and a pathway to a brighter future.
Agis told us one of his experiences during his many years of involvement with the foundation. Our Rotary District 6960 decided to hold its annual conference aboard a cruise ship traveling around the Caribbean. Agis had been instrumental in the Gift of Life program, providing corrective heart surgery for children with congenital heart defects in undeveloped countries, from babies to teens. Florida Rotary’s Gift of Life helps children mainly in the Caribbean. The cruise would stop in Belize. Florida Rotarians and Gift of Life had provided medical care and life-saving procedures for hundreds of Belizean children over the past 36 years. He suggested a reunion of sorts for the children, their families, and medical personnel, along with Rotarians to get together and celebrate the health and happiness of the youth. It was a truly joyful island celebration.
The cruise ship was also carrying shipping containers of wheelchairs from the foundation for distribution in Belize. Toward the end of the celebration, the Rotary Club of Belize asked Agis to present one of wheelchairs to a recipient at the party. He was a little nervous about this; he had never lifted a person into a wheelchair. Agis asked for some help and the recipient was brought forward. He helped place the young girl into the wheelchair. Agis saw the emotional response of her family and friends. He held it together for that moment but was forever touched at the power of that experience knowing that the young woman and her wheelchair would be going places that would make a difference in her life forever.
According to Drury: Buying a wheelchair for someone is a very satisfying and rewarding thing to do. Donations go directly to the purchase and delivery of the wheelchairs. Where else can you get so much value for such a small amount of money? It’s a personal gesture, one person to another, that reaches across oceans and continents, creating hope and building bonds of friendship.
For information about the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary. The club meets every Friday at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel; visitors are welcome to attend.