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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Irvine Man Turns Lawn Chairs into Free Wheelchairs for the Needy


It all started when Don Schoendorfer witnessed a disabled woman dragging herself across the ground.

Lawn chair wheelchairs
Lawn chair wheelchairs (KTLA-TV)

IRVINE, Calif. (KTLA) -- An Irvine man who has made it his mission to turn lawn chairs into wheelchairs for the disabled and underprivileged has helped distribute more than 500,000 chairs to those in need across the globe -- and he says he's not finished yet.

Ten years ago, Don Schoendorfer was on a trip to India when he says he witnessed a disabled woman dragging herself across the dirt in order to get around.

Once back in Southern California, Schoendorfer -- a mechanical engineer and inventor by trade -- came up with a solution that was both effective and affordable: lawn chairs and bicycle wheels.

He made 100 of the low-budget chairs and kept them in his garage for a year and a half.

"I didn't know what to do with them," Schoendorfer said.

Eventually, Schoendorfer walked away from a successful career to found the nonprofit organization "Free Wheelchair Mission."

It costs less than $60 to have each chair made, shipped and delivered to "some of the most remote corners of the globe," according to Schoendorfer's website,

Better yet, the recipients don't have to pay a dime for their new mobility.

Schoendorfer says he hopes to distribute 20-million wheelchairs in total.