In early May, after watching news reports of the horrific situation in Ukraine due to Russia’s invasion of the country, and seeing a news item showing a man transporting an older lady in a wheelbarrow, the Duncan Knights of Columbus decided to put their free wheelchairs for the needy program back into action.
The program was titled “100 Wheelchairs for Ukraine”.
Raising funds for wheelchairs was not new to the Knights, which last year raised over $6,000 and sent 32 free wheelchairs to third-world countries. But this was different. One hundred wheelchairs, which were urgently needed, meant raising $20,000 in a short period, so the Knights approached the Duncan Lions Club, which eagerly took up the challenge to co-sponsor the fundraiser.
The Duncan Lions even kicked in $2,000 to start the ball rolling. The Malahat Lions later joined with a $1,000 donation and the Knights themselves with $2,000. An online fundraiser was started at www.bit.ly/Wheelchairs100, posts were placed on Cowichan area Facebook pages, and the team started to visit churches in the area. The Cowichan Valley Citizen and other media raised awareness of the campaign. Corporate sponsors included Country Grocer (Cobble Hill), Save-On-Foods (Duncan), Zanatta Estate Winery, Deol Family Estate Winery, Emandare Vineyard, Enrico Winery, Cherry Point Estate Wines, and Blue Grouse Estate Winery.
“Once started, it was tremendous to see the public response to this effort with gifts from $5 to many donating $195 and more to sponsor an entire wheelchair,” said Mike Thorpe, chairman of the Knights Wheelchair Committee.
The committee was extremely surprised by the response they were receiving. Initially, reaching 50 wheelchairs would have been considered a tremendous success, but the numbers kept growing and growing. The Knights had partnered since 2003 with the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation, which could handle the purchase and delivery of any number of wheelchairs to Ukraine while also providing tax receipts to donors. Regular reports to the foundation kept upping the totals, first to 75 wheelchairs, then to 100, then 150, and eventually to more than 200 wheelchairs.
The final count was more than $40,000 raised over six weeks to send 215 wheelchairs to Ukraine urgently. The Knights and Lions would like to thank the many media, volunteers, vendors, and sponsors who came together to make this fundraiser a success. Anyone wishing to make a last-minute tax-receipted donation can obtain details by emailing: Wheelchairs100@gmail.com.