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Rotary Happenings: Cycling challenge raises funds for wheelchairs

By ROTARY CLUB - | Dec 23, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Rotarian John Danner, Joleen Raho, Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club President Richard Green and Steve Aguis, chairman for the District 6960 Wheelchair Committee.

Rotarian John Danner, pastor at the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ, created the Wheels 4 Wheels fundraiser in honor of his father, the Rev. Howard S. Danner Jr., a pastor and college professor who was struck by a drunk driver while biking and was paralyzed from the waist down, leaving him in a wheelchair for his remaining 17 years.

On John Danner’s 60th birthday, he rode his bike from just north of Fort Lauderdale to Key West — a total of 190 miles — as a fundraiser for wheelchairs. He called it Wheels for Wheels/60 for 60. His goal was to raise enough money to purchase 60 wheelchairs. Danner ended up raising $22,000 and helped distribute over 200 wheelchairs in Trinidad later that year. Last year, he had the idea to ride his bike once again as a fundraiser for wheelchairs — a cause Rotary contributes to annually — and included Rotarians in the event. It was called the “Howard S. Danner Jr. Wheels for Wheels Cycling Challenge.” With $26,000 raised, it allowed for the purchase and delivery of over 250 wheelchairs to Barbados and Trinidad.

This year, it was discussed and decided that a ride could again be completed, with minor changes to ensure the safety of all participants in light of COVID. A total of $23,000 was raised by the riders and their sponsors, which will enable the Wheelchair Foundation to purchase 280 wheelchairs for distribution to those who cannot afford one. Danner reported: “I am so pleased that this yearly effort honors the memory of my dad, who spent 17 years as a paraplegic in a wheelchair. Over the two years of the club event in his name, and the first solo ride when I turned 60, we have funded close to 700 life-changing wheelchairs.” Danner was also recognized as the rider who “Rode the Most Miles.”

The Wheelchair Foundation is a nonprofit organization leading an international effort to create awareness of the needs and abilities of people with physical disabilities, to promote the joy of giving, create global friendship, and to deliver a wheelchair to every child, teen, and adult in the world who needs one, but cannot afford one. For those people, the foundation and the Sanibel Captiva Rotary Club deliver hope, mobility and independence to many. Steve Agius, chairman for the District 6960 Wheelchair Committee, reported: “The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club has long been a significant supporter of the Wheelchair Foundation and its mission to provide mobility and dignity to people in need throughout the world. This year, despite the challenges of a global pandemic, they have once again gone above and beyond expectations with this incredibly generous gift which will have an immediate and long lasting impact on the lives of so many.”

Joleen Raho, spokesman for Team Freedom, reported: “Our team came together easily as we all passionately believe every person deserves to live a life of freedom and dignity that each wheelchair provides, regardless of the ability to pay. Knowing many wheelchairs end up near Rotary Clubs that can help distribute, maintain and repurpose each chair when appropriate is just good management. I am so thankful for every Team Freedom member who chose to stand in the gap and support those in need. Together, our team purchased $4,300 or 43 wheelchairs out of approximately 200 wheelchairs, and counting, for this event.” Raho and Team Freedom were recently honored as the “Winner of Most Money Collected.”

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club holds a meeting on Fridays at 7:30 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel, and via Zoom. To attend in person, email Bill Harkey at William.Harkey@gmail.com; attendance is limited to 20 people. To take part via Zoom, call 239-472-7257. For more information, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary.