Knights Bring Wheelchairs to Mexico
3/1/2019By Andrew Butler
In Mexico City there is a grandmother who is battling cancer while acting as the sole caretaker for her two teenage grandchildren – one of whom (the granddaughter) has difficulty walking. They live in an area where the average weekly wage is $15 (300 pesos).
This past February, Knights representing the California State Council visited this family and gave the girl the gift of mobility – a brand new wheelchair. That gift, one of many made during the trip that lasted from Feb. 13 to 17, was part of the Knights of Columbus’ Order-wide partnership with the Global Wheelchair Mission.
Since 2009, the Knights of Columbus has partnered with the Global Wheelchair Mission, founded by Chris Lewis – a Knight of Columbus and son of comedic legend Jerry Lewis. Its goal is to provide aid to those who lack the freedom of mobility in our communities and around the world.
In Mexico, the Knights had the opportunity to visit and distribute wheelchairs with Lewis at the Children’s Rehabilitation Institute Teletón (CRIT) center in Hidalgo, a facility that provides care for children and adolescents with physical disabilities through a rehabilitation model centered on the family.
“These CRIT Centers are just totally state of the art,” said California State Deputy Joseph Salaiz. “They rival to our children’s hospitals here in this country.”
Salaiz also described distributing a wheelchair in another, more remote location.
“At one of the other places that we gave a chair, we were up at 9,000 elevation. It was a very remote area on a hill,” said Salaiz. “They just were so happy that we were there, that we thought about them, to present them a chair.”
Participants in the trip included Knights, their wives, two former California state chaplains and Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange. Bishop Vann, a friend of Salaiz’s, was so enthusiastic about joining the Knights on this wheelchair distribution that he canceled other plans so he could participate.
“It was really a blessing that he was with us,” said Salaiz. “Everywhere we went in Mexico, people were coming up to him asking for blessings. It was just tremendous to have him with us.”
Bishop Vann also offered a very special blessing for Knight José “Pona” Magana and his wife, Judy, who were on the trip. The trip happened to coincide with the anniversary of the day they got engaged.
When Bishop Vann heard the Maganas’ story, he suggested they reaffirm their wedding vows. So they did.
“I don’t know how many times we were told, ‘We can’t thank the Knights of Columbus enough for what you’re doing’,” said Salaiz. “It was just a tremendous trip altogether.”
Knights councils around the world participate in wheelchair distributions. Whether councils present wheelchairs to local veterans and neighbors in need or donate funds to benefit those abroad, mobility brings with it independence and a recognition of the dignity of every human being.
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