Free Wheelchair Mission is a humanitarian organization that has, to date, distributed over 800,000 wheelchairs free-of-charge to the poorest of the poor around the world. These wheelchairs have been given out in 91 different countries to those who otherwise could never have afforded or had access to one. To see for yourself the transforming effect a wheelchair can have on a recipient in need, please take a look at the (first) short video encapsulated in my previous post.
If you are impressed with and moved by this accomplishment of service to your fellow human beings, you have Don Schoendorfer, the President and Founder of Free Wheelchair Mission, to thank. Of course, as Don himself will tell you, this could never have happened without the direct support of early believers in his idea and the constant support of many other everyday people like you and me ever since. But the fact is that FWM would never have existed without Don, and he is as committed to the cause now as ever before. Because, although 800,000 is a tremendous number, and a profound testament to the human capacity for kindness, compassion, and love toward others less fortunate, the fact is that there is still an estimated 100 million (that’s right, million) people around the world still in desperate need of wheelchairs.
I recently had the great honor of sitting down with Don at FWM’s headquarters in Irvine, CA, and asking him all kinds of questions about his life, and about how the amazing organization he started came to be. As you will see, he was a gracious interviewee, generous with both his time and his stories.
Don Schoendorfer was born in Albany, New York, in 1949, but moved to the small town of Ashtabula, Ohio, at the age of five when his father took a job there working for the New York Central Railroad. The youngest of three brothers (all of whom went on to become engineers), and having a machinist for a father, Don remembers:
“We were always fixing things…it was torture to be an appliance in our house…you could just see the washing machine just pleading for mercy: let me die, let me go to the junk- no, no we’re gonna fix you again!”
In this first interview clip, Don discusses the career path he was dead set on from an early age, perhaps in large part a result of the “fix-it” environment he was immersed in as a child:
Please consider making a donation to support the work of Free Wheelchair Mission. You can do so by clicking here. If you give between now and October 31, 2014, your donation will be matched as part of their Times Two Gift Challenge!
In the next post, my interview with Don continues, and gets a whole lot more personal…