The giant retailer again linked hands with the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities (APD) in Nelson Mandela Bay to make a difference in the community.
Initially targeting the donation of wheelchairs, the project has expanded to include the Amputee Support Group (ASG) and Nkosinathi Foundation for the Visually Impaired.
Stapleton acknowledged the challenges of the past two years but says he was both "humbled and proud" at what had been achieved.
"I am humbled because, despite the issues we have faced, we have seen another 200 people receive wheelchairs to be freed from their immobility," adds Stapleton.
"I'm also humbled that another 100 people have been exposed to living life in a wheelchair, even if for only 67 minutes. It is a life-changing experience. I have been privileged to collaborate with an amazing team from APD. Robbed five times during Covid, plans often had to be postponed, but they never let up," Stapleton says.
"Despite so many cancelled events, we are proud that we were still able to roll out the 'Wheelchair Wednesday' programme. We are proud that, while we could not honour Nelson Mandela at the planned launch of 'Wheelchair Wednesday' 2021, we still honoured him by reducing the time spent in a chair to 67 minutes," adds Stapleton.
Another milestone, Stapleton says, was to take the campaign beyond the Nelson Mandela metro with a day at SPAR Dagbreek in Kirkwood. "Hopefully, in 2022, we will spread the word even further into the rural towns around the Eastern Cape," he says.
APD executive director Cecilia Fourie says that evidence of another successful campaign came in reaching their targets this year.
"We donated 200 wheelchairs through the Network of Caring organisation. Besides the metro, we also provided chairs in towns such as Kirkwood, East London, Makhanda and Jeffreys Bay. In 10 years, we have donated 1 400 chairs and have seen 2 500 participants, largely from corporates, raising awareness for the project," says Fourie.
Awareness has been a constant theme and ASG chairperson Brian Paddey says that being part of the programme had helped.
"This year, we have collected 21 pairs of crutches and four walkers from the participating SPAR stores and donated them to the orthotic and prosthetic workshop at Provincial Hospital. It is beneficial for us to be part of 'Wheelchair Wednesday' because we can see that public awareness is increasing," adds Paddey.
Nkosinathi Foundation resource development officer Anne-Marie Stephenson says that they were grateful to be "on board of the shared awareness platform" for the first time. 'Wheelchair Wednesday' participants wore simulator glasses to provide greater understanding of how visually impaired people live.
"One of the participants said he now understood what his father, who is waiting for a cataract operation, is going through," says Stephenson. "He said that this was an eye-opener for him as his father never complained."
"We have seen an increase in orders for our social enterprise sewing project for visually impaired people and parents of visually impaired children. From this year's campaign, the foundation was able to buy 50 canes for blind people from poor communities in the Eastern Cape," Stapleton says.
"These are critical in ensuring rehabilitative orientation and continued, safe mobility of people who have lost their sight," concludes Stephenson. "Canes are customised to suit the age and size of individuals and need to be purchased accordingly."
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