Bringing wheelchairs to those in need

Students from Kentlake and Kentwood High Schools, community members, and members of Real Life Church in Covington are working to raise $50,000 by June 30 for Free Wheelchair Mission.

Students from Kentlake and Kentwood High Schools, community members, and members of Real Life Church in Covington are working to raise $50,000 by June 30 for Free Wheelchair Mission.

The effort, led by Real Life Associate and Missions Pastor Kevin Holland, will pay for an entire container — that is 550 wheelchairs — to be purchased and delivered to people in need in northern Ghana.

Holland first heard about Free Wheelchair Mission, a nonprofit based out of Southern California, two years ago when local representative Kristie Hardy-Jennings presented at a Rotary meeting.

FWM works with organizations from around the world to provide wheelchairs for disabled people with the goal to provide mobility, dignity, independence and hope. The chairs feature a simple design of a plastic lawn chair mounted on a steel frame with mountain bike tires and can be manufactured and delivered for $71.88.

This past fall Holland and Head Pastor Steve Murray were looking for a project that could go beyond the walls of their church and include the entire community and decided to approach FWM.

“We were trying not to make it something we do alone, but make it what can we do better together then we can do alone,” Holland said. “We want to be a catalyst.”

Holland and Murray started talking to people they know in the community and committed to the project in November.

Ghana, a country of about 24.2 million people located in West Africa, was selected because of church member’s connections to the country.

The project isn’t just about raising money and then making a donation. Holland will help co-lead a two-week trip to Ghana in November to assemble and deliver the chairs. Coordinating the trip is church member Clark Davis who has been on almost a dozen trips to the country.

Their primary purpose will be to assemble and distribute the chairs and Holland said they are also exploring doing some other projects as well, like providing soccer balls and uniforms as well as learning about the country. They’ll travel to the Mo region of Ghana, which according to Holland, is one of the poorest areas in the country. On the ground they’ll be working with the Baptist Relief and Development Agency to distribute the chairs.

“We want to make sure we get a chair to anyone regardless (of what they believe),” Holland said. “This isn’t about proselytizing.”

Getting the community involved has been a key part of the project and that has included Kentwood and Kentlake.

Students at Kentwood brought the project to the attention of Jo Anne Daughtry, the activities and athletic director at the school, and said they wanted to get the school involved.

Students raised over $2,500 through a school-wide competition during an assembly and through the leadership students pairing up to each raise the cost of a chair together.

That total is enough money to pay for 56 chairs.

“Our goal was 50 chairs and once again, Kentwood students have surpassed expectations when it comes to helping others.” Daughtry wrote in an email interview.

At Kentlake, Principal Joe Potts heard about the effort when he had lunch with Murray and Holland.

Potts then shared the idea with freshmen and sophomore leadership teacher Greg Kaas.

Kentlake will wrap up it’s fundraiser for the trip this week, with a goal of raising $2,000.

Kaas plans to go on the trip in the fall as does Potts and there has also been interest from about five students, Kaas said.

“It’ll be great to give,” Kaas said. “We’re really excited about it.

For Tahoma Junior High eighth grader Jacob Baker, his interest in the project and the trip was sparked when he saw a video about FWM at Real Life. He decided to make it the topic of a school project where he had to do something he’s never done before.

“It’s something I enjoy, I enjoy helping others and also I want to do this because I know other people out there are suffering and it (FWM) is something interesting I would like to learn about,” Baker said.

Baker started going door-to-door in his neighborhood to raise money and has Change for Change boxes at at The Blend and The Spot at Four Corners. So far he has raised $1,149, and with matching funds that total has gone up to $1,651. In addition to that Baker is also working on raising the funds to go on the November trip.

The drive to raise the $50,000 started a little over three weeks ago and Holland says he knows the goal can be met.

“It makes me nervous but it’s exciting and intense,” Holland said.

Holland said they chose FWM to work with because of the organization’s reputation and because he and other church leaders believe that it is a need the community can help meet.

“To me…it’s cheap and it meeds a huge need and it’s super durable,” Holland said.


Real Life will host a fundraising event from 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, June 5 at Ristrettos Coffee and Wine in Maple Valley. Tickets for the event are $20. The evening will include a presentation about FWM and gift baskets and local artists’ work will be auctioned off.

For more information on Free Wheelchair Mission visit For more information on the fundraiser and trip being led by Real Life contact Kevin Holland at