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Madeline Robinson: Founder of Wheelchairs 4 Kids

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It takes an extraordinary person to see beyond an impossible situation and to visualize amazing possibilities. That is exactly what Madeline Robinson of Tarpon Springs, Florida chose to do.
Robinson, no stranger to caring for the needs of others, is a loving wife and a doting mother and grandmother. Following in the footsteps of her humanitarian mother, Robinson became a Jaycee with the Junior Chamber of Commerce at the age of 21. This is where she learned to organize events for charities and held many positions in her 18 years of service for them. For the past 11 years, Robinson moved to working in the non-profit sector.

While granting wishes for Kids Wish Network, Robinson repeatedly witnessed the same issue – children with mobility challenges were struggling to get by with wheelchairs and equipment that was either too small for their growing bodies or damaged beyond repair.

Robinson began to look for a solution only to discover that most insurance companies and government programs replaced wheelchairs every five years, regardless of the child’s size or physical condition. “These kids were suffering because they outgrew their wheelchairs and didn’t have the finances to replace them,” stated Robinson. “Some developed pressure sores, scoliosis, and respiratory problems as a result.” Knowing these children already had great obstacles to overcome, Robinson believed the additional discomfort and suffering seemed so unnecessary.

She frequently shared her concerns with her husband, until one day he told her it was time to stop talking about it and do something. This rang a bell with Robinson because, as her mother always said, “If you see a problem, do what you can to fix it.”

In April 2011, with $5,000.00 of her own money, Robinson started the nationwide non-profit organization, Wheelchairs 4 Kids. Her goal is to help as many mobility challenged children as possible by providing proper fitting wheelchairs and supplying much needed equipment, ramps, lifts, and home modifications that will allow these kids the freedom to experience life within their homes and in the world.

Robinson spread the word about Wheelchairs 4 Kids by sending an e-mail blast to local children’s service organizations, such as Muscular Dystrophy Association, United Cerebral Palsy, Children’s Medical Services, Shriners, Wish Upon a Hero, physical therapists, and the school system. She wanted to start local to make sure she could handle any requests that came in.

Much to Robinson’s surprise, the Department of Children’s Services forwarded her letter to everyone on their “very large” e-mail list that went throughout the entire state of Florida. “In the first three days of operation we received forty requests for help from Children’s Services,” said Robinson.

To this day, Wheelchairs 4 Kids continues to get referrals for much needed equipment from the various advocates that Robinson contacted with that initial e-mail distribution. “We don’t have to look for kids that need help, they come to us,” stated Robinson. “Thankfully, we have a wonderful core group of volunteers who are willing to help out.”

Samantha — No More Crawling

The equipment is purchased through individual donations, civic organizations, and fundraising events hosted by Wheelchairs 4 Kids. The wheelchairs and other equipment are given to each child in need at no cost to them or their families. Most of the equipment is new but recently the organization started accepting donations of equipment that is like-new. They give the gear a complete overhaul to make sure it is in excellent working condition before presenting it to a child. Local contractors and volunteers provide their time and talent to help with installations.

“One of the first children helped by Wheelchairs 4 Kids was Samantha, a child I met through Wish Upon a Hero,” stated Robinson. “She was literally crawling up and down the stairs of her home with only her hands until Wheelchairs 4 Kids reached out to Acorn Stairlifts. They donated and installed a brand new stairlift for Samantha. Now she comfortably rides up and down the stairs.”

Gabby, a child who is not able to speak, read, write or walk, can now express herself through movement because of Wheelchair’s 4 Kids. Robinson’s organization provided Gabby with the Up-N-Go, a piece of equipment that allows Gabriella the ability to position herself upright and work her muscles. Gabby’s mother prays that one day she will gain enough strength to walk.

“When in the Up-N-Go, Gabriella’s smile, laughter and shrieks of joy express her thanks at finally giving her a feeling of control,” Marlene, Gabby’s mother, stated in her letter. “Every time I see my little girl upright and squealing with delight, tears of joy stream uncontrollably down my cheeks.”

Robinson affirmed that reading letters like the one from Marlene and Gabby make her want to cry with joy as well. Helping a child become ambulatory, giving them a sense of

Sarah with Gabby and Mad, a Volunteer

pride, independence and joy is what makes this organization worth every effort she, each volunteer, all local businesses, and every donor put into it.

At the present time, Wheelchairs 4 Kids has eleven volunteers. As a relatively new non-profit organization, their greatest challenges are recruiting more volunteers and collecting enough donations to aid in the growing number of children who need their help. Presently, they are looking for businesses and civic organizations that would like to sponsor a child, as well as continued donations and additional volunteers.

“If I had enough money, I’d take care of all these kids myself,” Robinson expressed with heartfelt emotion. “I don’t want them to wait; I want to help them now.”

Nolan Likes His New Chair

 

 

 

 If you would like to learn more and help this nationwide cause, go to www.wheelchairs4kids.org

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14 Comments - (Leave a comment! »)

  • Jordyn – Idaho said:

    Not only do I think it is a worthy cause, but I think it is great to bring awareness to a good cause and an unsung hero in the community. The incorporation of multiple pictures, including ones with volunteers and kids with their new gear, were really great additions because it gives the reader and idea of not only what the organization is doing, but also gives them a visual picture of how happy the kids are because of the organization.

    As far as the writing itself, I think it was written and presented very well. The quotes and digging into the backstory of some of the individuals impacted by the organizations really connects with the audience and brings in a personal feeling. I think that perhaps having a quote from one of the kids that received a wheelchair would have been beneficial. But, the bit from Gabby’s mom was well placed. Also, I think starting the article off with some statistics about how many children go without the gear they need would have been a good intro. And then leading into how Robinson is changing the staggering number through her organization.

    Overall, I liked the article. Very informative, but still interesting enough to catch the reader’s attention and allow them to connect through the pictures.

  • Liz – Louisiana said:

    This story about Madeline Robinson and her founding of Wheelchairs 4 kids really made be happy. I taught special needs students for 5 years so I know a bit about kids needing wheelchairs. This article was written very well.

  • Marcy– West Virginia said:

    I particularly enjoyed this one about the Wheelchairs 4 Kids organization. I thought the piece was well-written in terms of telling Madeline’s story and highlighting examples of the families she has been able to help. It’s inspiring to read about someone who saw a need as large as this one and made an effort to find a solution. Hopefully it will be an encouragement to others to see that they can make a difference, too.

    Overall, I found the site to be rich in content and presented in an interesting manner. My only critique would be the organization of the website itself. While the bones of it are there, I found it difficult to hone in on who the audience is supposed to be and what the site is seeking to accomplish. It’s nothing that a simplification of the overall design and enhanced description of the site’s mission couldn’t fix. The vision is honorable.

  • Jamie – Texas said:

    This article caught my attention the most. You see, I have spent many months being a direct lifeline to the homeless and poverty stricken parents. I love the passion and drive behind the organization Madison Robinson created. So many in our communities need help. Finding that help can prove to be very difficult. Because I feel moved deep within my Faith and heart to help, I love all of these articles on your website

  • Jennifer – Michigan said:

    I liked how the article examined the rewards, as well as the obstacles, of being a caregiver to an Alzheimer or dementia patient. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease and I watched my grandpa go through a roller coaster of emotions. It was refreshing to read about someone who can bring hope to such a desolate situation. I thought her therapy methods were very creative. I could picture the patients singing and dancing, as they were illuminated with life.

    At the same time, I admired that fact that Casterlin discusses the challenges she faces with her profession. It was touching to read about her father’s struggle with dementia and how it heightens the emotions of her job. But instead of fleeing the profession, she is even more determined to help her patients find happiness. This article did an excellent job of showing the inner strength a person must possess to care for someone suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Robin – USA said:

    I spent some time on your website and I enjoyed it very much. I admire your mission to call attention to everyday heroes. I especially like the above article because the author showed not only Ms. Casterlin’s compassion and selflessness but also her understanding of human frailty. Her ability to comfort the families of her patients speaks to her knowledge of this disease. I especially liked her philosophy of her patients, through their passing, returning to their true selves. Thank-you for what you are doing.

  • Susan - North Carolina said:

    I am encouraged by stories where people give of themselves to help others. This is an inspiring publication!

  • Amy – USA said:

    I was greatly impressed by the many different stories I have read here. This one about Madeline Robinson affected me the most. Many years ago I worked with preschool children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities and realized early on that many of the parents of these children were unable to afford the cost of a wheelchair for them. I thought this story took on a flow that was easy for the me to understand and definitely tugged at my heartstrings. This site is a valuable cause, and more people need to see stories such as these.

  • Haley – Nebraska said:

    This touched my heart in several ways. How much this lady was kind hearted to start charities for people and significant others. I love how Robinson, had found a solution to help these kids with their daily life challenges or should I say difficulties? All I know is that, this story really touched my heart and how this woman helped these kids. Proves to me that, the world really is a good place and there really are kind hearted people like her out in the world.

  • Nate – Connecticut said:

    I have seen my uncle who is a respected high school football coach, former teacher and upstanding member of the community slowly become more and more immobile due to his battle with MS and is now wheelchair bound. Ms. Robinson’s endeavor is certainly a noble one and its quite heartwarming to read about the child who had to crawl up and down the stairs now able to comfortably safely do something most of us take for granted every day

  • Thule - Vietname said:

    I have read the articles posted on your website and these stories really touch me as well as greatly interest me.
    I only wish that one day stories of Vietnamese are represented on your website because in Viet Nam ,there are always the good typical mirrors of people for extraordinary events. They also have the positively influence on the people around through their real life story.

    Also Im the most impressive by the above article. I Thank Madeline Robinson for her contribution to the disable children on wheelchairs. She really become a mother, sister of the disable children by real care to their needs. This seem impossible if only wait for the support of Government, but her love, affection push Robinson start immediately her wise plan. Discomfort and the threat coming up to the disable children outgoing on the old wheelchair .Robinson maybe is the first person deeply understand this and her heart really sympathized . She is the great woman I admire and now there is no place for the personal selfishness but our world is brighten by the very normal persons with their extraordinary works.

    It is very emotional when Robinson started her plan by $5000 saving money. She was maybe thoughtful, unsleepful for many night before taking decision. She isn’t rich in money or is a millionaire ,but her heart always aim to the disable children, so her youth is for charity activities.

  • vu thanh cong said:

    Robinson is often the name of “hero”. I wish this idea will reach developing countries such as vietnam.

  • Lynda said:

    I am enthralled with this project. Has there been any attempt made to have families swap in chairs their children have outgrown when they get larger ones? Then the used ones could be refurbished and passed along to another child.

    May God bless this work and all involved in it.

  • Madeline Robinson said:

    Thank you to everyone who voted. This is very humbling. Michelle Cook-Kaufmann did a wonderful job writing this. Getting the word out about Wheelchairs 4 Kids is priceless.

    Although the headline has my name in it, please realize that none of this would be possible without all of the wonderful volunteers, sponsors and donors.

    It’s about everyone working together for one purpose. From 9-year-old Skylar Stecker recording a song for us (see the video on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR-Im516lPI), to the Jacksonville Mets, a little league baseball team doing numerous fundraisers, the Jacksonville Jaycees hosting a car show and so many others sponsoring our kids. It’s all the volunteers who worked on various fund-raising events and local business leaders allowing us to arrest them for our Jail and Bail.

    I could go on and on. Thanks to everyone who have made our first year of operation such a success for so many children with physical disabilities. Thank you!

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