VMI Professor Heads Wheelchair Project

Col. Woodson “Woody” A. Sadler Jr. '66 and wife Lori, during a wheelchair distribution in Ancon, Peru during spring furlough.—Photo by Woody” Sadler

Col. Woodson “Woody” A. Sadler Jr. '66 and wife Lori, during a wheelchair distribution in Ancon, Peru during spring furlough.—Photo by Woody Sadler

LEXINGTON, Va., April 15, 2022—USMC retired Col. Woodson “Woody” A. Sadler, Jr. '66, adjunct professor of civil & environmental engineering at Virginia Military Institute, has a heart for those who are wheelchair bound and spent his spring furlough this year giving the “gift of mobility” in Peru.

For 25 years, Sadler has been a member of Rotary International, a humanitarian service organization which brings together business and professional leaders to provide community service, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace. When he served as the organization’s district governor for western Virginia and eastern Tennessee in 2012-13, he got the district involved with the Wheelchair Foundation, a charitable foundation whose goal is to provide a free wheelchair to every child, teen, and adult worldwide who needs one but has no means to acquire one.

According to the Wheelchair Foundation, there are 100 million people in need of a wheelchair worldwide. In addition, for every person waiting for a wheelchair, there are six caregivers tasked with laboriously carrying that person everywhere they need to go. So, for every wheelchair donated, there is relief for a total of seven people.

Since Sadler’s involvement with the Wheelchair Foundation, his district has sent over 3,200 wheelchairs to Latin America. Their goal is to send a container of 264 wheelchairs to a country in Latin America every year. Each container costs $42,000 to send. When the wheelchairs arrive to their country of destination, members of the local Rotary International club pick up the wheelchairs from the port of entry and are responsible for delivering them to the city or village of the wheelchair recipients. Local social workers in each city or state are responsible for the application process in identifying people in need of a wheelchair.

A delegation of 16 Rotarians from Sadler’s district traveled with him to Peru, at their own expense, to personally meet each wheelchair recipient. “Each trip lasts one week. We spend four days delivering wheelchairs and three days is dedicated to fellowship with the people of the country. It is equally important to build a culture of friendship, to understand people of different nationalities, to break bread together and promote peace,” said Sadler.

Often the delegation must journey to remote villages to deliver wheelchairs. One mayor in a small village in Peru so overwhelmed with gratitude for the delegation traveling to his town declared, “Thank you! Nobody ever comes out this far.”

So far Sadler and his delegation have traveled to six destinations including the Caribbean, Guyana, Columbia, Guatemala, Peru, and Mexico. If enough funds are raised by July, Sadler plans to deliver wheelchairs by Christmas to either Medellín, Columbia or Equator.

Many members of the delegation are eager to go on additional trips, which they find to be inspirational and emotionally moving. Sadler recalled one exceptionally touching episode while visiting a hospital in Columbia where many servicemen were convalescing after losing legs. “The limbs were lost because the military is tasked with eradicating plants used for illegal drug production. Drug cartels place landmines at the base of the plants, so when the serviceman pulls the plant up, the landmine explodes. When I stopped at the bedside of one man who could not speak English but had a translator app on his cell phone, he simply lifted his phone up to me and it read, ‘thank you.’”

Donations to Sadler’s wheelchair project may be made online by going to wheelchairfoundation.org and clicking the donate button, then choosing “Rotary District 7570 Wheelchair Project” at the donation application dropdown. All donations are tax deductible.

Marianne Hause
Communications & Marketing

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