Charity sends 25,000th wheelchair to the needy

From Left: Olly Pickett, Mike Smith, Darryl Tweeddale from Wheelchairs for Kids, Wangara who recently donated their 25,000th wheelchair
From Left: Olly Pickett, Mike Smith, Darryl Tweeddale from Wheelchairs for Kids, Wangara who recently donated their 25,000th wheelchair

‘Lined up, they’d stretch all the way to the CBD, I suppose,’ he says, struggling to imagine what a line of wheelchairs stretching down Mitchell Freeway would look like.

The children’s charity recently sent off its 25,000th wheelchair, along with 339 others, to Sri Lanka where they will be given to children.

As Olly explains each work station, from where the aluminium frames are bent into shape to final assembly and packaging, his knowledge and passion are obvious.

As well as running the workshop, Olly has had a hand in designing the wheelchairs produced by the charity, from the original which was built from recycled bicycles and old school chairs to the most recent ninth model which can be adjusted for children as they grow.

More than 140 volunteers work in five shifts a week producing the wheelchairs at a rate of about 24 a day.

As well as the regular workshop volunteers, 16 sewing groups around Perth produce the upholstery as well the blankets which are distributed with each chair.

The charity has agreements with many agencies around the word to transport and distribute the wheelchairs, which have so far reached 61 countries.

Each wheelchair costs just $125 to manufacture and deliver.

‘Scarborough Rotary Club pays all our overheads, which helps keep the cost down,’ Olly said. ‘We get our aluminium for half price from Capral and Ullrich, as well as all our boxes free from Visy. We also have 262 primary schools that do fundraising for us.’

As difficult as Olly finds it to picture 25,000 wheelchairs, he says it is impossible to comprehend the number of children’s lives that have been improved because of the charity’s work.

‘Imagine being on the ground permanently, having to wait around for someone to pick you up if you want to move around,’ he said. ‘The wheelchairs give them mobility, but more importantly, dignity.’