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Christopher Reeve foundation helps support wheelchair program


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September 19, 2002

Whirlwind Wheelchair International will have an additional $10,000 to support its operation in the coming year, thanks to a grant from the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

Whirlwind, based at San Francisco State, received the Quality of Life Grant to support its mission of teaching wheelchair riders in developing countries to design, build and repair their own wheelchairs. The organization is also dedicated to teaching rider-builders to create businesses for manufacturing and distributing wheelchairs and to expand the Whirlwind network of rider-builders around the world. This is the second year Whirlwind has received a grant from the Foundation. In the first year, the group received $25,000.

"What they’re doing is supporting the core program at SF State that allows us to do the good work we do all over the world," said Peter Pfaelzer, program advisor for Whirlwind and a professor of mechanical engineering.

Founded by Instructor Ralf Hotchkiss in 1980, Whirlwind teaches a wheelchair-making class through the School of Engineering, and then sends students throughout the world to share their knowledge. The network now includes 43 countries and more than 200,000 people.

The Paralysis Foundation grant is the largest single core operations grant Whirlwind has received this year, Pfaelzer said. The money will help support administrative salaries and office equipment.

"It’s called the Quality of Life Grant, and we’re thrilled they recognize how vital it is to support the administrative core, that in truth supports hundreds of thousands of dollars of project work in the field," he said.

Fund raising has been a challenge this year, Pfaelzer said, due to the economic downturn.

Among Whirlwind’s current projects is a three-year undertaking in Managua, Nicaragua, to assist a "modest sized" wheelchair builder increase his company’s productivity and design new, lightweight wheelchairs.

That project is funded by The Interamerican Development Bank Project and American Jewish World Service-Contract.

"That’s an example of the sorts of projects the Christopher Reeve Foundation helps by supporting our core," Pfaelzer said. "We hope they’ll continue to be pleased with our work and will fund us periodically."

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Last modified September 19, 2002, by the Office of Public Affairs