By Sonia Walker-Russell / Bahama Buy & Sell

At least 100 more disabled persons on Grand Bahama and neighboring islands will soon be able to get around a little easier, thanks to the Rotary Clubs of Grand Bahama and the Rotary Wheelchair Foundation.

One hundred new wheelchairs were brought to the island recently, 18 of which have been donated thus far. Three of these were presented to local residents July 10th on Grand Cay, Abaco, noted Stephen Gunn, Rotary's GBI Wheelchair coordinator and Rotary Club of Freeport (RCF) member.

"We went to Grand Cay and gave out three wheelchairs: one to the clinic there that didn't have any; one to Freddy Miller who has no legs and one to Peter Gardiner who can't really walk or do much for himself."

This most recent community service operation is a joint effort of all the Rotary Clubs of Grand Bahama which include the Rotary Club of Freeport, Grand Bahama Sunrise Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Lucaya and Grand Bahama Sunset Rotary Club.

According to Gunn, the wheelchair effort is not new, but has been an ongoing project for the local non profit organization.


"Back in the year 2002 we read an article in the Rotarian magazine about the start of the Wheelchair Foundation and how it worked, and at that time we decided to get on board with it. The Foundation pays about half the cost of the wheelchair and the distributing organization pays the other half. We did a fund raiser and brought in about 10 wheelchairs then. Every year since, we've been working closely with the Northern Council for the Disabled and The Bahamas Association for the Physically Disabled out of Nassau, headed by Sir Durwood Knowles, which has supplied some chairs to us as well. To date we have distributed 180-200 wheelchairs in the Grand Bahama, Sweetings Cay and Grand Cay area," he said.

However, this last trailer load of 100 wheelchairs was made possible through a truly generous donation by Rotarians from Florida.

"Our District Governor Michael Stafford, during a couple meetings in Florida, talked about our involvement with the Wheelchair Foundation. Two Rotarians who were listening thought what a great way to do some good work with their funds and donated $25,000 which went toward the purchase of the wheelchairs."

Presentations of the wheelchairs will continue until the amount is depleted and the lives of some of the country's disabled is made a little easier. Any local Rotarian can be contacted if you know of  a person with a need or are in need of a wheelchair, noted Gunn.

To help Rotarians on Grand Bahama continue such efforts to serve the community, corporate entities and local persons are encouraged to support the organization whenever they can.

"I am aware of  the  Rotary Club of Freeport being involved with the wheelchair program for the last 10 years or more, but when personally contacted about a need for a wheelchair I experience first-hand what a wonderful program it is and I am proud to be a part of the Rotary organization which helps so many," added President of RCF Queen Rolle. "Our programs are funded in part by persons donating major gifts or through our local fundraising initiatives. When you support us, your funds go toward programs like the wheel-chair initiative. Continue to support Rotary and let's all, together, make our community, our island, and country a better place to live."

So, concluded Gunn, "when you see Rotary out there selling chocolates, popcorn, cotton candy, doing various fundraisers, please try to support!"

Photo: Past president Richard Bates (far left) and Stephen Gunn (far right) present a wheelchair to the Grand Cay Clinic, accepted by the clinic's resident nurse and Chief Councilor Curry.