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Local wants to send help on wheels



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Gary Zirwes hopes to provide wheelchairs for disabled people across the world in third world countries.Photo by Trevor Keiser (click for larger version)
October 19, 2011 - In addition to sponsoring children in Uganda and India to provide food, clothing, and schooling, Independence Township resident Gary Zirwes has another way to help those less fortunate.

While attending a North America Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. this past Labor Day weekend, Zirwes came across the "Free Wheelchair Mission," a humanitarian faith-based organization in service to "provide transforming gift of mobility to the impoverished disabled in developing countries, as motivated by Jesus Christ."

"We're here to serve," Zirwes said. "Wherever we can do it, we need to grab hold of it."

After meeting a girl in wheelchair by the name of Allison, Zirwes said he wanted to help with the wheelchair mission.

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"She didn't feel she was any worse off than you or I, but her attitude was just phenomenal about the situation she was in. She was making the best of everything," he said. "She just touched my heart."

On his way home from the conference, Zirwes said he made a goal to fill a container with 550 wheelchairs by the end of December for Wheelchair Mission, but he is looking for donations by people who would like to help.

"Sixty-four dollars a chair, that's pretty inexpensive," he said. "For the small investment of a wheelchair, we can help, rather it be an adult or a little child get off the ground and into a wheelchair and help them feel some worth, some respect, to be able to give them hope, mobility and function with the family around the dinner table instead of being hidden in the corner."

When most normal wheelchairs are expensive, Free Wheelchair Mission founder Don Schoendorfer found a way to make durable wheelchairs using a lawn chair, mountain bike tires, and custom steel frame, all for $64.

"I would even like to find out where they're going to send our container and go there and really feel from those people their enjoyment of being able to sit in a wheelchair," Zirwes said. "But I don't know if that's possible."

According to the Free Wheelchair Mission, since 2001 they have sent over 600,000 specially made wheelchairs to over 81 countries around the world, but still over 100 million people are without mobility.

Those interested in donating can call Gary Zirwes at 248-625-8470. Zirwes is asking people to make out checks to Free Wheelchair Mission. For more information visit www.freewheelchairmission.org.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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