- Disabilities & the Disabled
The Wheelchair Foundation, Changing the World One Wheelchair at a Time
Peace Through Wheelchairs
Kenneth E. Behring, Founder of Wheelchair Foundation
One man has made a difference in crossing the barriers of race, religion, and political diversity, by donating his time and money in an attempt to improve the quality of life for people, simply one person at a time.
That man is Kenneth E. Behring, founder of Wheelchair Foundation, humanitarian, and philanthropist.
Wheelchairs provide freedom for those who are not mobile.
"Most of us think of a wheelchair as a confinement, but to millions of people it is not confinement, it is freedom," stated Behring at the Brigham Young University graduation ceremony where he was the guest of honor.
Behring was given an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Christian Service from that university on August 15, 2002 and is still actively involved in providing humanitarian service to this day. Having never graduated from college himself, this honor is one that he doesn't take lightly.
Kenneth E. Behring founder of the Wheelchair Foundation
Kenneth E Behring in China
Behrings meager beginnings, taught him the value of work.
Growing up in poverty, Behring knew the feeling of going without. His father worked in a lumberyard, while his mother cleaned houses so that the family could survive. Starting to work at the age of seven, he came to understand the value of hard work. This ethic was what eventually led him to achieve the success that he has gained in the business world.
Behring finds success in giving.
Business success came in Behrings life through the power of investing.
Starting his career in the automobile dealership industry, Behring retired at age 27 and from there took up a career in real estate development.
Over the next 35 years he not only became very prosperous, but was influential in developing numerous planned communities in Florida and California, including the famous Blackhawk development near San Francisco.
Behring owner of Seattle Seahawks and major contributor to various charitible organizations.
His many accolades include: establishing the Blackhawk Museum, and the U.C. Berkeley Museum of Art, Science and Culture, starting the Behring-Hofmann Educational Institute benefiting the San Francisco Bay region, a $20 million dollar donation to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in 1997, and an $80 million dollar donation to rebuild the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in 2000.
He has served as president of the American Academy of Achievement, and served on both the board of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and the University of Wisconsin Athletics. He not only has received his Honorary Doctorate from BYU, but the coveted James Smithson Award from the Smithsonian. He has been named Man of the Year by both the Boys Town of Italy and the Mount Diablo Hospital Foundation.
"Giving is not a duty, it is a joy." Behring
The Wheelchair Foundation, "The best thing I have ever done."
Understandably living the gamut from poverty to extreme wealth, one of the greatest realizations in his life was made after starting the Wheelchair Foundation. Behring explains, "When I was poor I didn't know what true poverty was, and when I became rich, I didn't know what true riches were." He further noted, "When I see the happiness in the faces of those who get a wheelchair, I feel that this is the best thing I have ever done."
All he could think about were wheelchairs.
Behring was asked by The Mormon Church to help transport goods...
Before the Wheelchair Foundation was established it was important for Behring to discover the need for the wheelchairs for himself.
In 2002 he explained, "It's really amazing how things work out, because I have a big airplane that flies the world at thirty thousand feet, I came into contact with people who see the world by crawling on their stomachs and elbows. I owe this blessing to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Although I am not a member of the church, about three years ago it asked me if I had room in my plane to drop off fifteen tons of canned meat for refugees in Kosovo. Then the church said, ‘And is there any chance that you might have a little extra room to drop off some wheel chairs in Romania?' I had never really thought about wheel chairs before, but after that trip I could think of little else."
Wheelchairs for Afghanistan
Wheelchair Foundation was born in 2000.
On June 13, 2000, Kenneth Behring's own birthday, he pledged 15 million dollars and launched the California based, Wheelchair Foundation which was established at a ceremony in Washington, DC.
Since that time he has delivered over 650,000 wheelchairs to citizens in 152 countries. His lofty goal was to provide one million wheel chairs to those in need by 2005, although the time limit has been exceeded the goal has not died.
Behring discovered, "I found out that in third world counties people who are immobile are discarded, they have no life, they have no hope, they have no future. They are put in the back of a little hut and given their meal a day, and for all purposes people just kind of wish they would fade away or die." He found that by restoring mobility it improved their lives instantly.
Wheelchair Foundation partnership with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Wheelchair Foundation has some partners in charity.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, is a global partner with Wheelchair Foundation, having contributed over $5,000,000 to the organization. Along with the church, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of State have been sizeable contributors. The Rotary Clubs & Rotarians have also provided a large amount of support to the organization.
Wheelchairs Given In China
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has implemented a Wheelchair Initiative
As a partner to the Wheelchair Foundation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has implemented the Wheelchair Initiative, this has also been influential in helping to provide more appropriate kinds of chairs, fitting the rural conditions that some of the recipients live in. It has been influential in emphasizing local production of some of the wheelchairs and the chance for the recipients to be involved.
"This aspect of the initiative has been designed so markets are not flooded with imported chairs, hurting the local economy. Supporting local factories also augments the repair options for the wheelchairs because local parts are more available and mending can take place more quickly."
The church explains, "In addition, local manufacturing and repair means jobs are available for disabled individuals. The Church currently buys from factories in Kenya and Vietnam, where wheelchair recipients are employed. A third factory employing wheelchair recipients will open in South Africa in June."
They further state, "Providing employment for people improves their ability to support and look after themselves as well as their family. They are also able to believe in themselves and make contributions they were not capable of before. It isn't really about the wheelchairs. It is about what the individuals want to do next. Do they want to get a job? Go to school? That is the impact of this initiative."
LDS Church and Wheelchairs
- LDS Church News - Mobility is key to a productive life
Imagine a world without personal mobility. Riqui did when he contracted Polio at a young age. Mayerlinth did when she was hit by a car. Ana Raquel did when her leg was broken in a motorcycle accident.
One Wheechair at a time, changing the world.
Help Change the World, One Wheelchair at a Time
Behring himself takes advantage of being able to personally deliver the wheelchairs to their recipients. He explains, "I wish you could meet the people I've met. They have taught me to use the word love much more freely than I would have ever thought possible."
The Wheelchair Foundation is in continual need of funds and support to further this great work. Grant monies that were a major source of their combinable funding have finally been exhausted. The expense that is rising because of increased fuel prices are making delivery and manufacturing more difficult. An estimated 60 million people in the world who need wheelchairs do not have one. Any help that they are offered is always welcome.