Drive collects ‘Wheels for the World’

Keith Randle, a physical therapy doctoral candidate at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, hands a walker and crutches to Michelle Mutch, also a physical therapy doctoral candidate, during a collection of mobility equipment April 29 at St. Ambrose. The university was one of several sites statewide collecting used wheelchairs, crutches, canes and walkers for the Iowa Wheels for the World drive.

By Anne Marie Amacher

DAVENPORT — Individuals and organizations dropped off second-hand wheelchairs, crut­ches, canes and walkers April 29-30 at St. Ambrose University that will be refurbished and donated to people with disabilities worldwide.

The Iowa Wheels for the World drive is held every other year. One of the sites this year was St. Ambrose Center for Health Sciences Education at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport.

Wheels for the World, an outreach of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, is a nonprofit organization that strives to bring hope and mobility to persons with disabilities, said a statement from Patsy Lawton, all-Iowa Wheels for the World drive coordinator.


John Barr, professor of physical therapy at St. Ambrose, said the program came to Iowa in 1999; St. Ambrose joined the effort in 2004.

Planning for the event begins the summer before the collection. Monthly meetings help in preparation. Barr said items collected April 29-30 would be transported to Iowa City. The donated equipment will then go to a prison facility to be restored and fixed up. “It costs about $150 to rehab each wheelchair,” he noted. Some wheelchairs come without wheels or have other missing parts.

After the items are in usable condition they will be shipped to countries across the world for distribution. Members of Wheels for the World help fit the equipment to each recipient.

Lawton estimates that more than 18 million people worldwide are in need of a wheelchair or other basic mobility equipment. She traveled to Ghana in October 2005 and Egypt in 2010 to help with the distribution.

During 2011, Barr said, Wheels for the World will travel to 14 countries including Thailand, Guatemala, Cuba, Ghana, Poland, Brazil, Romania and China, to give the gift of mobility to children and adults with disabilities.

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