You’ve likely seen the picture and read the heartwarming story about the little boy in a wheelchair who was stopped “dead in his tracks” by an ad he saw in a Target store.
Oliver Garza-Pena gets around in a wheelchair. He was born with caudal regression syndrome, which impairs the development of the lower half of his body. He was in an Arizona Target store with his mother last week when he spied hopefulness.
Gazing back at him, smiling and laughing, was a boy on a Target display ad who also uses a wheelchair for mobility. Oliver’s mom told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that her son stared in awe at the at the Target ad, and she was unable to break his gaze.
“I could see the look on his face, he knew that boy was like him,” she said.
In one of the articles I read, the writer reflected, “Sometimes, it takes a 2-year-old to steer us toward the hopeful signs that, as a society, we’re doing things that make everyone feel more valued and included.”
Joni and Friends has been serving individuals and families affected by disability for over 40 years – sharing God’s love, hope and encouragement to underscore the value of life. And in the ministry’s commitment to carry out their mission, they’ve designated March as Wheelchair Collection Month to bring awareness to the mobility crisis around the world.
More than 75 million people worldwide are in need of a wheelchair, yet only 10% have access to one. Throughout the month of March, Joni and Friends is hosting a nationwide campaign to collect wheelchairs and other mobility devices for their Wheels for the World program. Wheelchair drives are taking place across the country, culminating with an event hosted by the Joni and Friends Headquarters in Southern California on March 27th.
“The need for wheelchairs is immense,” said Jason Holden, Director of Wheels for the World at Joni and Friends.
Tens of thousands of wheelchairs are thrown out each year across the United States, while more than 75 million people around the world are in need of one. In less-resourced countries, a person with limited mobility is often relegated to a back bedroom with no access to attend school, go to work, or be part of their community. But the gift of a wheelchair changes everything – a wheelchair literally lifts someone out of the dirt and into a seat of dignity and opportunity.
Have a chair to donate, or interested in getting the word out? Go to the ministry’s website for a full complement of resources to help you do that, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
And, consider airing one of the ministry’s radio programs, the 4:00 “Joni and Friends” or the 1:00 “Diamonds in the Dust” – a great way to encourage and remind your listeners daily that they are valued in God’s eyes!