Wheelchairs 4 Kids is a Tarpon Springs 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children with physical disabilities. We provide wheelchairs, home and vehicle modifications as well as other assistive equipment at no charge to the families.
Many children faced with living with physical disabilities are in wheelchairs that are too small, in disrepair, or do not fit the needs of the child. Children outgrow their wheelchairs before government or insurance programs will allow for a replacement – generally every 5 years. Not only is it unsafe for a child to be in a chair that is inadequate for their needs, but it can impact their health in numerous ways including scoliosis, respiratory problems and pressure sores.
In addition, families are faced with trying to care for their special needs children in homes that have not been modified to meet their specific circumstances. Wheelchairs 4 Kids does home modifications such as ramps, door-widening, and roll-in showers which not only increase the comfort and safety of the child, but the caregiver’s as well. We have had several instances of parents “showering” their children in the back yard with garden hoses because they could no longer safely get the child in and out of the tub. No child should have to experience such a blow to their dignity. We have been able to remove the tubs and replace them with roll-in showers with shower chairs. Thankfully, we have been able to secure local contractors (thus stimulating the local economy) who will donate their services and all we need to do is purchase the materials (at discount!). We also do vehicle modifications such as lifts.
Some interesting facts that may be of interest:
• Medicaid generally only replaces a chair every 5 years. Children grow!
• Medicaid may provide a power chair, but no means for the family to transport it or even get it into the child’s home. They need ramps and door widening
• The Muscular Dystrophy Association has terminated their $2,000.00 per family stipend for equipment/modifications due to reduced donations and an increased focus on research.
• Easter Seals and UCP have cut back on their equipment programs.
• There are several organizations that are shipping wheelchairs to third world countries but very few that help children in the states, due to the high cost of customizing chairs to fit the needs of the child and meeting regulatory standards.
The majority of our referrals come from physical therapists, social workers and other advocates for kids with physical disabilities such as UCP and the Spina Bifida Association, Shriners Hospitals and Children’s Medical Services. We are always looking for more children who need our mobility assistance.
Wheelchairs 4 Kids was incorporated in April 2011. Having worked and volunteered with children’s charities for years, we saw a definite gap in services for kids with physical disabilities. It was quite common to see kids in chairs that were uncomfortable and unsafe. After researching the situation, it became apparent that the limited services that were available were disappearing as demonstrated above.
The organization operated out of the Robinson household for 1 ½ years at which point it was necessary to find an office. We were fortunate to find a landlord who greatly discounted the lease. We now have a staff of 6. To date we have helped over 530 kids with a goal of serving a minimum of 180 kids in the coming fiscal year.
We host 3 major annual fundraisers. On November 23rd we will host our 9th Annual Wheely Good Time live & charity auction at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets are available now for $65 each. Our Wheely Good Time event has quickly become one of the most talked about events in Tampa Bay! We have gained a reputation of getting once in a lifetime experiences to auction such as a table for 4 on Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen show or a Meet and Greet with Sting, Sammy Hagar and the always fabulous Sir Paul McCartney! The evening will be hosted by Emmy Award winning Fox 13 News Anchor Mark Wilson and will consist of cocktails, premium hors d’oeuvres, music, family testimonials and presentations as well as the always popular live and silent auctions. We also are expecting some sports stars and local celebrities to attend. Once again, we will be using mobile bidding which allows people to bid using their Smart phones. It also allows for supporters nationwide to bid online allowing us to reach thousands of potential bidders. The auction site opens 1 week prior to the event allowing supporters to preview items and even start bidding on them.
On January 23rd we will host out 5th Annual Kimberly Knorr Memorial Celebrity Golf Tournament at Cypress Run Golf Club. Singles are $200 and Foursomes are $750. Each team is paired with a celebrity golfer. Our golf tournament is named in honor of our wonderful friend and board president, Kimberly Knorr who passed away suddenly on June 23rd of 2015. She was only 45. Kim was an amazing woman who gave so much to make Wheelchairs 4 Kids such a success. Her husband, Randy Knorr, two time World Series champ and current GM of the Washington Nationals, chairs this event. We have athletes from the world of baseball, football and basketball participate. Some of the stand-outs are Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve DeBerg and Ian Desmond who was selected to play in the 2016 MLB All Star game. It was his second appearance at the big game! Due to the caliber of our celebrities and the quality of our tournament, we attract foursomes from some of the best known businesses in Tampa Bay! It is a great networking opportunity!
Finally in April we host our “Jail & Bail” fundraiser at Charley’s Steak House where we “arrest” prominent business people, government officials and community leaders. They are issued prison garb, fed a “last-Meal” then thrown in the slammer to answer to Judges Julie & Steve Weintraub for their crimes. Once their bail is set they must contact all their business associates, friends and family to raise bail. Their crimes range from insider trading (retired NFL players using connections to get ahead in Fantasy Football) to impersonating an actor (local business owners/lawyers appearing in commercials). The sillier the crime, the better!
All funds from sponsorships, auction item donations and bail are used to fulfill our mission of improving the lives of children with disabilities.