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Sanford Health to partner with Wheels for the World; donations will be accepted of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes

Sanford Health has partnered partner with Wheels for the World, an organization that provides free wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, or canes to children and adults affected by disability worldwide.

The Wheels for the World drive will take place July 25-29. People who have wheelchairs, walkers, crutches or canes may donate them at any Sanford Health facility.

In the area, donations may be made at the Sanford Bemidji Clinics in Bemidji, Blackduck and Cass Lake and at Sanford Health Clinic in Walker.

Wheels for the World was founded in 1994 as part of Joni Eareckson Tada's ministry, Joni and Friends. For details, visit

The World Health Organization estimates there is a need for more than 18 million wheelchairs worldwide. In some countries the cost of a wheelchair can equal a year's wages, (if a wheelchair were even available), making it impossible for many people affected by disability to ever receive one. People are living in isolation because they lack simple mobility. Wheels for the World aims to meet the physical and spiritual needs of disabled people around the world by providing mobility.

Volunteers across the United States collect wheelchairs that are then restored in specialized prison workshops by trained inmates. The chairs are shipped overseas to distribution teams from the United States who custom-fit each wheelchair for each recipient and offer training in wheelchair use and upkeep.

More than 950 wheelchairs have been collected in the Fargo region in 2001, 2003 and 2006, along with hundreds of walkers, crutches and canes.

This year the project is expanding further into Minnesota and South Dakota.

Fargo residents Lorene Peterson and Judy Siegle have been involved in Wheels for the World distribution and collection.

Peterson, an occupational therapist for 24 years at Sanford Health, has been on six distributions to Ghana, Egypt, Jordan and Cuba.

Siegle, director of women's ministries at Hope Lutheran, has been on three distributions to Romania, Egypt and Jordan. In 1979, the summer after her senior year in high school, Siegle was in a car accident that left her quadriplegic. A standout high-school athlete, she went on to become one of the world's elite wheelchair racers, competing in the 1996 and 2000 Paralympics games.