August 2006 - Wheelchair Foundation

Do the Right Thing

By Kelley E. Kaufman

When a talented group of people pools its resources for a common goal, great things can happen. The direct response industry’s support of the Wheelchair Foundation (WCF) project is the perfect example.

Launched in spring of 2006, the Foundation is a six-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to delivering wheelchairs to people around the world who are in need but unable afford them. Dan Danielson, former ERA chairman and CEO of Mercury Media, led the charge to find out how ERA and the direct response industry could take action to help such a worthy cause. The end result was the creation of a wide-reaching campaign designed to boost the Foundation’s efforts.

Now, only a few months after its launch, the Foundation has received support from individual monetary contributions and television advertising, radio and print marketing help from ERA members and DR companies on the Foundation’s behalf. Over 30 companies have contributed their time, talents and services, donating airtime, publicity, production, telemarketing, and more. “That’s been the most enjoyable about this,” Danielson comments, “Dealing with remarkable people-they know what they’re doing and they do what they do, and they do it well.”

The first radio spots were aired in April 2006. The first short-form television commercial aired in May, newspaper and magazine advertisements followed in June. Next, long-form advertisements will continue to build awareness and support for this initiative.

“It’s been wonderful-the feedback that we got from all the different organizations and different people involved has been just great. It’s been such a great collaboration and so many very, very generous people who have contacted us from within the ERA, and obviously the donations have been incredible-I mean, very generous,” says Chris Lewis, Foundation director of public education and development. “It’s making a heck of a difference, and I’m really excited about the rollout of the print media and the long-form. We’re going to be hearing a lot more about it.”

By mid-June, donations from ERA members and supporters raised enough money to supply two containers of wheelchairs, which will be delivered to Chile later this year. Each container contains 280 wheelchairs, giving the gift of mobility to over 500 people in need.

This is just the beginning of what this project can-and will-do. Not only has the industry joined together to create a successful, multichannel direct response campaign and raised a significant amount of money, it has also helped raise awareness of the Wheelchair Foundation and its efforts. Lewis says, “Really, this is allowing us-a six-year-old organization-we just crossed the half-million wheelchair mark around our 6th anniversary (June 13), but what we’ve never done, is we’ve never spent the kind of money necessary to brand our organization with the general public, because we’ve been more concentrated on putting the money into getting the wheelchairs and getting the wheelchairs to the people. ERA is allowing us to do something that we’ve always wanted to do, which is to brand the WCF more with the general public. It’s like a gift from heaven as far as we’re concerned.”

More information on the Wheelchair Foundation and its cause can be found at For more information on the industry-wide Wheelchair Foundation project and how you can get involved, please visit

Kelley E. Kaufman formerly served as ERA’s communications manager and publications specialist.


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