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Local organization gives the gift of mobility this holiday season

KBAK/KBFX photo

It's lunchtime, and the dining hall at the Stockdale Moose Lodge in Bakersfield quickly fills up with more than a dozen guests.

Three people, who all have spina bifida, are wheeled in by their caretakers. They don't know it yet, but they are about to receive the gift of mobility.

Wheels 4 Bakersfield is the organization that put on this event. They hand-selected three people that will receive donated powered wheelchairs.

Alejandra Ramirez, 25, has not been able to walk since she was a toddler. She has been constrained to a wheelchair that is old and bulky. She says she oftentimes can't get through doors because of the size of her wheelchair, but she hardly complains because it's the only one she has.

"Basically, the wheelchair is my way of getting around, besides the bus," says Ramirez. "This is my way of getting around. You can say these are my legs."

Jolaine Roberson, 11, also depends on her wheelchair for mobility. She has had the same chair since she was born, and it is starting to show wear and tear.

"It was hard, because I can't get around places, and it was squeaky a lot," says Roberson.

Jose Hernandez, 31, also has spina bifida but has never had a wheelchair of his own. He can't afford one. He has had to depend on crutches to get around.

"I wake up in pain sometimes on my back, I have the help of caregivers," says Hernandez. "Having those crutches, it makes it a lot harder."

After lunch was served, Alejandra, Jolaine and Jose each received a donated powered wheelchair. They were donated by community members, and volunteers with Wheels 4 Bakersfield helped refurbish them.

"Giving them a better set of legs is what it really is," says the group's Executive Director Nicholas Blanchard. "(We are) giving them a chance to move around."

Each of the wheelchair recipients say this new gift is much more than just a new set of wheels. It is giving them freedom and independence.

"I can get around easier, and I can go outside with my family," 11-year-old Jolaine says. "I can go out any place I want."

Wheels 4 Bakersfield is accepting wheelchair donations. Volunteers say they will pick up wheelchairs, scooters, walkers and ramps from donors in Kern County.

If you would like to donate, or if you know someone in need of a wheelchair, call Blanchard at (951) 392-0444 or email wheels4bakersfield@gmail.com.

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