Students’ efforts helped people live more mobile lives

By Staff     8/1/2017


Entrepreneurial third-graders from Saint Joachim Catholic School in Costa Mesa raised $5,042 to fund the purchase of wheelchairs for 63 people with disabilities around the world.

Teacher Jackie Woodworth challenged students to work in teams and to develop business plans to raise funds for Free Wheelchair Mission, a leading provider of mobility solutions for people living with disabilities in developing nations. The Irvine-based nonprofit organization has distributed nearly one million wheelchairs, at no cost to their recipients, in 93 countries since its founding in 2001. A donation of $80 covers the manufacture and shipping of one wheelchair.

Armed with their business plans and a goal of $4,000–the record set by last year’s class–the third-grade teams held bake sales, sold snacks, and opened neighborhood lemonade stands, raising enough funds to surpass their original goal by over $1,000.

“Every student is to be commended for the awesome job they did to make possible 63 lives transformed through the gift of a free wheelchair,” said Jackie Tsujimoto, church relations officer at Free Wheelchair Mission. “Mrs. Woodworth did an amazing job keeping students motivated to go above and beyond their goals.”

Now in its fifth consecutive year, the school’s third-grade service project has raised a total of $12,620 for Free Wheelchair Mission, providing wheelchairs for 158 people. Principal Sister Kathleen Marie expressed her joy in seeing students grow in compassion, utilizing creativity to take action and serve others in need.

“I am always amazed by the enthusiasm children demonstrate when they are confronted by a need and have faith that they can be part of the solution,” said Free Wheelchair Mission founder and president, Don Schoendorfer. “Of course, they also need teachers and parents who are willing to help their children learn this vital human lesson. What a blessing for third-graders to know that they are giving strangers on the other side of the world the gift of mobility, a chance for a better life.”