Inspirational TV Personality Victoria Arlen Delivers Message of Hope
Guests use VR Glasses to be Transported to Guatemalan Village
An unforgettable evening on July 25th filled with surprises, heartfelt inspiration and the pure joy of giving culminated with Free Wheelchair Mission (FWM) receiving over $1.8 million in donations in one night – the most ever at this event and enough to transform the lives of more than 22,500 individuals living with disabilities in under-resourced nations around the world. Already, the humanitarian nonprofit has distributed 1.2 million wheelchairs around the world.
The 600-plus who attended the 16th annual Miracle of Mobility gala at Segerstrom Center of the Arts were treated to a fabulous gala evening PLUS three unique opportunities:
1) listening to television personality and gold medalist Victoria Arlen, whose own story of regaining mobility is incredible
2) journeying virtually to a small Guatemalan village using Oculus VR glasses and feeling like they are on a mission to distribute wheelchairs
3) taking part in an exciting live auction where generous donors bought wheelchairs for individuals living with a disability in an under-resourced nation. Each $80 donation will buy one wheelchair – changing that person’s life forever as he or she begins a life of mobility.
Guests enjoyed an internationally themed cocktail reception with food stations offering global cuisine, a silent auction filled with an eclectic array of gifts and experiences, a performance by Infinite Flow, the first wheelchair dance company in the world, and inspirational remarks from Free Wheelchair Founder and President Don Schoendorfer.
The evening’s special guest, 24-year-old Victoria Arlen, holds impressive credentials: ESPN host, Paralympics gold medalist, Dancing with the Stars semi-finalist, author and most recently, co-host of the NBC TV’s American Ninja Warrior Junior. Those credentials would be impressive for anyone but considering that Victoria was struck by two rare neurological diseases at the age of 11, causing her to be trapped in her body in a minimally conscious state for four years, it is an incredible turnaround.
Victoria spoke at the gala about her journey, including the four years when doctors doubted that she would ever return and the subsequent several years when she fought back to begin life again. She offered a message of hope and the importance of being thankful for what you have.
“When you focus on what you still have, you will find it changes your perspective, and that change in perspective creates hope. Hope that tomorrow will be just a bit better than today and when you take that hope, and mix in your own hard work, lots and lots of hard work, I believe you will find yourself back on the path to living out your own dreams.”
Victoria credits her parents with the hope that saved her. “Over and over doctors told my parents they needed to accept the very real possibility that I would not survive and, even if I did, the Victoria they once knew was not coming back. And while my family was willing to accept the diagnosis, they refused to throw up their hands and accept that this was all my future had in store. They accepted the diagnosis, but NOT the prognosis,” Victoria related.
“Somehow, they believed I was not a lost cause. I now believe that it was their refusal to accept that prognosis that brought me back to life.”
Following Victoria’s talk, a robust live auction led to the donation of more than 21,900 wheelchairs to be built and distributed in 93 countries around the world. In 2017, Free Wheelchair Mission reached the milestone of one million wheelchairs distributed and now is pursuing its goal of reaching the next million by 2025.
“Tonight’s gala was successful for so many reasons, most notably the many volunteers who help us bring the gift of mobility to people living with disabilities around the world and the many donors who embrace our mission and recognize how even a simple $80 donation can change a life forever, “ said Free Wheelchair Mission CEO Nuka Solomon.
“The gift from Free Wheelchair Mission provides the mobility that allows each recipient to begin a new life – whether it’s taking care of themselves, attending school or working – and we find that the vitality of the entire family and community are changed too,” Solomon added.
Key sponsors of the gala included Transformation Sponsors: Advisors Mortgage Group and The McDonald Family; Freedom Sponsors: The Hummelberg Family, The Morris Family Foundation, Diamond Hill Capital Management, KPMG and PR Construction. The full list of sponsors can be found here.
About Free Wheelchair Mission:Free Wheelchair Mission (FWM) is a humanitarian, faith-based nonprofit based in Irvine, Calif. that designs and manufactures cost-efficient, durable wheelchairs for individuals living with disabilities in under-resourced nations. FWM collaborates with a worldwide network of like-minded partners that facilitate wheelchair distribution in 93 countries. FWM provides renewed dignity, independence and hope through the gift of mobility at no cost to the recipient. Just $80, the cost to manufacture and deliver one wheelchair, can change a person’s life forever. Founded in 2001 by Don Schoendorfer, Ph.D., the organization reached the milestone of distributing one million wheelchairs in 2017. FWM currently intends to distribute the next million wheelchairs by 2025. For information or donations, visit freewheelchairmission.org.