When it was time to pick a humanitarian project necessary for Brody Danielson to become an Eagle Scout of Troup 125 in Santa Monica, California, he was inspired by his dad’s work to raise money for the delivery of wheelchairs in conjunction with ERA member companies. Dan Danielson and Mercury Media launched the program several years ago and over 3,500 wheelchairs have been delivered around the world so far.
After seeing the photos and video of his dad’s wheelchair distribution trip to Southern Chile two years earlier, Brody decided that he wanted to have a fundraising dinner and silent auction with a goal of raising $15,000 to sponsor the delivery of 100 wheelchairs.
After months of preparation and outreach by Brody and many volunteers, a spaghetti dinner, laser light show, live entertainment and a silent auction were held at the hall next to his local church. It was a huge success and he had raised over $22,500. Enough to sponsor the delivery of 150 wheelchairs!
The following month Brody and his dad traveled back to Southern Chile to distribute wheelchairs sponsored by his dad’s efforts with the ERA.
Arriving in beautiful Southern Chile on a cold, wintry July morning, Brody, his dad, a team from the American Wheelchair Mission and the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation headed south to Chiloe Island to distribute the first batch of wheelchairs.
Over the course of the next four days the team traveled to nine different cities delivering wheelchairs to children, teens and adults in dire need of mobility. Brody learned what it meant to be a dedicated member of a Rotary club from our host and distribution partner Rudi Harwardt, to be considered a hero by people he had never met before, and to be the person who could answer prayers and make dreams come true with the gift of a wheelchair.
“I never knew how great it could be to change another human being’s life with a gift like a wheelchair,” said Brody. “Meeting a girl my same age who was so happy to finally have a wheelchair after needing one for many years really touched me. It was a great feeling to be able to help her and her family.”
Especially touching was the mother who had to take care of her three teenage sons who were all born with neurological disorders. Three of eight children, they had to be carried everywhere they went by their older brother; but when all three received brand new wheelchairs at their home in Valdivia, smiles were contagious and many lives were changed — the mother, the brother, the siblings and everyone who attended the delivery and experienced their happiness.
Past Governor of Rotary District 4350, Rudi Harwardt is one of the best distribution partners any organization could hope to have. He works tirelessly to help the less fortunate people of Southern Chile, and his goodness of heart is visible on his face. Rudi has coordinated the delivery of some 4,000 wheelchairs throughout Chile since first meeting Chris Lewis at a Rotary convention years earlier. Rudi says, “We are so fortunate to have such good lives, we must help others who are not as fortunate.” Rudi also initiated having the recipients of the wheelchairs sign an agreement that if they no longer need the wheelchair for any reason, they will return it to their local Rotary Club who will then get it refurbished with the spare parts supplied with each container and then get the wheelchair back out to a person in need of mobility.
The next ERA sponsored project is to eradicate immobility on Easter Island, which is a part of Chile. Rudi is working with Rotarians on Easter Island to find people in need of wheelchairs and will then deliver them.
The Electronic Retailing Association, its member companies and many people involved in the direct response industry have helped change tens of thousands of lives with the gift of wheelchairs around the world, and we are grateful to have you as partners in our humanitarian mission.