San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Wheelchair Donation Benefits 110 Mobility-Impaired

FABIÁN Hernández, 67, has two prostheticlegs, the hard tan plastic emergingfrom his socks contrasting sharply with hisdark brown skin just above the knee. Sincethe loss of his limbs 20 years ago, he hasrelied on the shoulders of his sons and anold metal walker to make his way slowlyaround Parrita, a small town outside ofQuepos on the central Pacific coast.Thanks to the benevolence of twoCosta Rica-based foundations, Hernández’slot improved dramatically last monthwhen he and 109 others were outfitted withbrand-new wheelchairs.THE event was organized by theRoberta Felix Foundation in Quepos,which has worked to better the lives ofphysically and mentally disadvantagedchildren in remote areas of the country forfour years. Director Robbie Felix long agoidentified the need for wheelchairs in thearea, recognizing the gift of mobility asvitally important to the morale of peoplechallenged by movement.Felix had a vision that children withcerebral palsy and senior citizens slowedand bent by age could be liberated from theconfines of their homes to experience alevel of independence otherwise unknowableto them. What she lacked were thechairs.Enter the Do It Foundation. Run by 13-year resident John Scheman, this charityaims to ameliorate the general condition ofthe poor through partnerships with likemindedpeople. On March 12, Do It donated110 wheelchairs to meet the need identifiedby Felix.“We have the capability to supply thechairs,” Scheman said, wiping the sweatfrom his forehead under the hot sun. “Whatwe need in order to be effective is for othergroups in the country to alert us to theneeds in their area.”WITH an impressive design by theFree Wheelchair Mission in California, thechairs sit on two wide, deeply treadedmountain-bike tires. Supported by a sturdymetal frame with a footrest and centered onan ordinary white plastic lawn chair, theyare ingenious in their simplicity andremarkable in their practicality. Ideal forbraving the mud, rock and unpredictableterrain characteristic of the campo, thewheelchairs also come with a patch andpump kit to facilitate easy maintenance,and the chairs themselves are easily andcheaply replaced.“It is amazing how things work out,”Felix said, taking a short break betweenhugs from grateful members of the community.“My original donor of wheelchairsrecently fell through, but I had alreadypromised chairs to all these people,” shesaid, nodding her head toward the largegroup feasting on plates of arroz con polloand sipping cups of Coke under a gianttent. “Out of nowhere John called me withthis offer; we organized the event, and herewe are.”DO It arrived with 40 chairs alreadyassembled at its headquarters in the northwesternprovince of Guanacaste. As themorning wore on, an assembly line of volunteersworked nonstop to put together anadditional 70 chairs, as ambulances, carsand farm trucks arrived in a steady streamwith needy recipients. One family with acrippled grandfather sprawled quietly on athin foam mattress, while a quadriplegicchild in the arms of his mother arrived in atransport truck from a town two hoursaway.It is hard to overestimate the impactthese chairs will have on the lives of thosereceiving them. Not only does this newfoundmobility instill a sense of pride andindependence in the individual, but thefamily as a whole benefits. For families inrural areas with a handicapped son, sisteror grandmother, in villages outside thereach of the public health infrastructure,where special services are nonexistent, thecharge of caring for a handicapped personfalls solely on his or her family. A wheelchaircan change everything.“There are simply no services availablein these remote areas,” sighed Felix. “Anysort of worthwhile assistance can only befound in San José. Therefore, some familieshave seven hours of travel with a sickkid for one hour of any kind of help. It’sridiculous.”IT has been said one can judge a nationbased on how it treats its most disadvantagedmembers. Felix agrees.“I think these children are a test fromGod,” she said, her eyes wandering to ayoung girl pushing her disabled brotheracross the lawn in his new chair. “He wantsto see how we respond, to see what we’remade of.”Both foundations would greatlyappreciate any support or donation. Forinformation on how to help, contact theRoberta Felix Foundation at 777-3336 orvisit; the Do ItFoundation can be reached at 667-0667or by e-mail at

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