On October 19th, 2011, Rick Pietrykowski and his wife, Jeannie, began a rather unusual 5-day vacation on the Pacific Coast of México. Despite Jeannie's valid concerns about the dangers rumored to lurk south of the border, she courageously agreed to accompany Rick, a freshly minted Rotarian, on a Wheelchair Foundation distribution event in Mazatlán. Rick, having agreed to “chairing” the Wheelchair Foundation fund raising project for the Rockwall Breakfast Rotary Club, it seemed appropriate for him to gain a first-hand understanding of the wheelchair project, albeit from finish to start.

At DFW airport they met up with Tom Harmon, District 5810 Wheelchair Coordinator, and Jennifer Kordell, Rotary Foundation Grants Supervisor, for the 2-hour flight directly into Mazatlán. There, they were greeted by Dr. John Grant of the Foster City (California) Rotary Club, and several members of the three Rotary Clubs of Mazatlan. The Foster City Rotary Club had directly or in-directly funded most of the 280 wheelchairs for this particular distribution. Dr. Grant combines contributions received from District Coordinators, such as those forwarded by Tom Harmon of District 5810, and then applies for matching grants from The Rotary Foundation.

Rotarians from the local clubs were hard working, as well as gracious hosts. They transported 70 Rotarians and Interactors to & from their hotel, to the central wheelchair distribution site, to individual wheelchair recipients’ homes, and to schools where they distributed the barest of essentials, pencils and paper, to overjoyed students. Ok, perhaps they were happier to see them install the swings, teeter-totters and basketball hoops that the Foster City Rotary Club had shipped in. The children besieged each of them to sign autographs for them. It was a flattering experience, even though they suspected that the teachers put the children up to it.

"As delightful as it was to see 100’s of smiling children’s faces, it tugged at our hearts to see the tears of many flavors on the faces of the wheelchair recipients" said Pietrykowski. "Tears of joy mixed with tears of pain during the physical act of moving a torn body into the wheelchair, tears of gratitude inter-mixed with tears of regret for being in need of the gift, and tears of excitement for their new found freedom washing over the tears of being at a disadvantage in a disadvantaged land."

Jeannie and Rick returned home on October 23rd with a greater appreciation for the blessings in their lives and a deeper commitment to helping our neighbors on planet earth. Pietrykowski added, "Please give generously when your fellow Rotarians solicit your participation in supporting the Wheelchair Foundation. It’s good for your heart."