Knights Distribute Wheelchairs to Veterans

11/10/2007

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A veteran is escorted at  the wheelchair distribution in Washington, D.C.

Hundreds of people attended the distribution of wheelchairs for use by veterans at ceremonies in North Texas, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles. In all, 2,000 wheelchairs –  with a total value of $1 million –  were donated to veterans.

“As our nation pauses to honor these men and women on Veterans Day, we are honored to be able to reach out to help veterans in need,” Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said in Washington. “This wheelchair distribution continues our longstanding tradition of service to our service men and women, both those who are on active duty and those who are retired.”

The Knights of Columbus partnered with the The Global Wheelchair Mission to distribute the wheelchairs. Five hundred wheelchairs were distributed in Bonham, Texas, (near Dallas) on Nov. 9, and additional distributions of 500 wheelchairs took place in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles on Nov. 10.

In Chicago, the auditorium of the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital was filled to standing-room-only capacity .Those in attendance were veterans, local members of the National Guard, Boy Scouts, VA hospital officials, K of C leaders, The Global Wheelchair Mission representatives, and family members.

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, right, with veterans at the ceremony in Washington.

The event began with Scouts wheeling veterans into the auditorium in new “Ferrari Red” wheelchairs, escorted by an honor guard of 76 Fourth Degree Knights.

Father Jim Burnett, chief chaplain at the hospital and a former U.S. Air Force chaplain, led the group first in the Pledge of Allegiance and then in an opening prayer. He lauded the veterans for their faithful service and praised the Knights and the The Global Wheelchair Mission for their generosity.

Chris Johnson, associate director of the VA Hospital, added her thanks to the organizations  and noted that the wheelchairs would be of great benefit to those who received treatment at the medical center.

Deputy Supreme Knight Dennis Savoie, speaking on behalf of  Supreme Knight Anderson, cited Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical Deus Caritas Est, saying that “government cannot do everything, and there will always be a need for individual voluntary contributions that spring from ‘loving personal concern.’”

Veterans smiled and waved to applause as Scouts ushered them out in the wheelchairs.

Veterans at the wheelchair distribution in Texas.

Supreme Secretary Don Kehoe represented the Order at the event in North Texas, and read a statement to the crowd from  the supreme knight. Supreme Master Joseph P. Schultz represented the supreme knight in Los Angeles.

The Knights of Columbus has long supported American troops and veterans. Beginning in 1916 – and continuing throughout World War I – the Knights sponsored Army Huts, a program of entertainment centers that ultimately became the model for the USO, earning high praise from Gen. John J. Pershing. The Knights also helped provide additional chaplains for the troops.

After World War I, the Knights ran a series of night schools for returning veterans to help them re-enter the job market.

In the months leading up to American entry into World War II, the Knights were the first national organization to conduct blood drives, an activity the K of C continued throughout the war.

Additionally, many local K of C councils opened their doors to servicemen, and Manila Council 1000 ran a center modeled on the army hut program in the Philippines before and after the Japanese occupation. The Knights also served as one of the organizations of the USO (United Service Organizations).

More recently, the Knights have continued to support the military, through the printing of more than 400,000 prayer books for troops and through extensive support of the Archdiocese for Military Services, USA, through support for the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., and through the current program of wheelchair distributions for veterans.