Wheelchair Charity Partners With Surf City Marathon

Photo: Running USA

The non-profit nears $2 million donation mark.

From: Running USA

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – For the eighth consecutive year, the Surf City USAMarathon is partnering with Irvine-based Free Wheelchair Mission for a fundraising event that is directly responsible for changing the lives of nearly 40,000 disabled people worldwide. “Run for Mobility” encourages all runners to use the Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon as a way to raise funds that send specially engineered wheelchairs to needy and developing nations. Detailed information is available at www.runformobility.org.

The largest combined oceanfront marathon and half marathon event in California, the Surf City USA Marathon showcases 20,000 participants, 50,000 spectators and 100,000 Beach Expo attendees from all 50 states and 18 foreign countries on Super Bowl Sunday, February 3, 2012. The award-winning ocean-front course serves as a qualifier for both the Olympic Trials and prestigious Boston Marathon. Detailed information is available at www.runsurfcity.com.

An alliance forged in 2006, Surf City USA Marathon runners have raised more than $1.7 million to date sending over 35,000 wheelchairs to recipients in need. When stretched wheel to wheel, the wheelchairs distributed with these proceeds would cover the entire 26.2 mile course and then some. Last year’s Run for Mobility featured more than 350 runners, 115 volunteers and raised enough funds to provide 2,400 wheelchairs to people in need globally.

What started as an idea years ago when Don Schoendorfer and his wife were vacationing in Morocco and witnessed the plight of a disabled woman struggling to drag herself across a dirt road, led to the design of a durable, safe and inexpensive wheelchair. When Surf City USA Marathon GM Amy Tomchak approached Schoendorfer in 2005 and offered a major platform to increase awareness and fundraising, he jumped at the opportunity.

“Over the past eight years, the Surf City USA Marathon is consistently one of our largest annual events, both in terms of fundraising dollars and overall participation,” said Ariel Rigney, Project and Event Manager at Free Wheelchair Mission. “It’s also critical in terms of marketing exposure, access to the public and is our largest volunteer engagement event. Surf City also provides an excellent engagement opportunity for donors.”

The relationship with the Surf City Marathon increased the organization’s visibility regionally and nationally and opened the door to sponsorships and involvements with other events. “The Surf City Marathon—Free Wheelchair Mission relationship is the foundation of our national ‘Team Mobility’ program which allows athletes to participate in various athletic events across the country (including runs, walks, biking events, football, tennis, golf, and alternative sports like paddle-boarding and surfing) in order to raise awareness through sport,” added Rigney.

Worldwide, Free Wheelchair Mission has manufactured and shipped 670,000 wheelchairs to 86 countries since it was launched in 2001. While conventional wheelchairs can cost between $500 and $30,000, Schoendorfer, a mechanical engineer, developed an inexpensive version; a simple contraption made from a plastic lawn chair and 24-inch mountain bike tires. One wheelchair costs $71.88 to be manufactured, shipped and distributed overseas.

“Our partnership with Free Wheelchair Mission has far exceeded anything that I ever envisioned,” said Surf City USA General Manager Amy Tomchak. “There are few opportunities to make such a significant impact on so many lives and running for those who can’t is a great way to make the race more meaningful for everyone involved.”

Run for Mobility participants include:

Marina White—Age 26, Irvine, CA—Marina has raised a total of $235 for the 2013 Run for Mobility to date. Surf City was her very first marathon ever and became her 50th in 2010. The race on Super Bowl Sunday will be her 130th marathon.

John Jaramillo—Age 47, Buena Park, CA—A former Amy Ranger, John supports FWM to honor a fellow Ranger who was wounded in combat and confined to a wheelchair. To date he has lifted four people into their very own wheelchair on top of countless hours spent volunteering for Free Wheelchair Mission and inspiring others.

Tom Fedro—Age 52, Irvine, CA—Tom, CEO of Paragon Software Group, ran across the Run for Mobility during the Surf City Beach Expo and decided to “make his miles matter.” He raised enough funds in 2011 and 2012 to purchase 179 wheelchairs. His goal in 2013 is raise enough money for 150 chairs.

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