“What a wonderful day this is,” said Mr. Wallace Hopkins, Director of the VA Medical Center, “a new fishing pier and brand new wheelchairs all on the same day.”
It was a festive mood at the Community Living Center on the grounds of the beautiful 300 acre Bay Pines VA Center near St. Petersburg, Florida. The Knights of Columbus across the state had raised the funds to deliver several hundred brand new wheelchairs to veterans in need of mobility. On this day, 23 new wheelchairs would be providing transportation in style to the residents of the center, allowing them to go outside to their new fishing pier, or anywhere they choose to go.
The 4th degree were very involved in the event coordinated by past state deputy Bob Read who happens to be the KofC Wheelchair Chairman for the state. Immediate past state deputy Jim Schoenfeld brought the wheelchair program to the state during his tenure as state deputy, and it has caught on like wildfire. This day Jim was welcoming veterans, Knights, staff and families to an event that none would soon forget.
The Frank J. Lewis Assembly 0159 in full regalia presented the colors and brought in a parade of bright red wheelchairs to the delight of the veterans, Knights and their families.
The wheelchairs were blessed by the VA Chaplain Fr. Thomas Dieter with water from the Jordan River in Israel, and several veterans immediately got to try out their new rides.
One of the resident veterans Mr. Peter Mellows played patriotic tunes on his harmonicas and brought everyone to tears with his heartfelt version of God Bless America.
“This event means so much to the people who live here,” said Kelley Anderson, Voluntary Service Specialist for the facility, “and we owe them so much, we have to make their lives as happy as we can.”
American Wheelchair Mission president Chris Lewis traveled from Los Angeles to attend the event and said that his entire purpose for being there was to say thank you to the Knights for making all of this possible, and to the veterans for making our freedom possible.
Past state deputy Bob Read said, “I cannot say enough about how much this program has been embraced by our brothers across the state of Florida, and I am so proud that we are leading all the states in the nation in our effort to get wheelchairs to veterans who are in need of mobility. It is such a pleasure to serve those who served.”