Citizen Honors Awardee
2008|Above & Beyond Citizen Award|Orange County, CA
Don Schoendorfer of Orange County, CA, an engineer, for going above and beyond as an advocate for the disabled, as he created, manufactured and distributed over 250,000 wheelchairs to those in need.
Don Schoendorfer of Orange County, California, has been recognized for going above and beyond as an advocate for the disabled and the disadvantaged. In 1977, Schoendorfer witnessed a sight that would haunt him for nearly 25 years - a disabled woman in Morocco clawing her fingernails into a dusty dirt road to cross the street because she had no wheelchair. The MIT graduate vowed to put his engineering skills to good use so he could help people in similar circumstances. Don spent the next nine months building a revolutionary one-size-fits all wheelchair that consisted of a plastic lawn chair, two mountain bike tires, an iron frame, and a pair of industrial casters. From those humble beginnings, Don launched The Free Wheelchair Mission in 2001, which has gone on to manufacture and donate over 250,000 chairs to some of the most forgotten and destitute people in more than 70 countries around the world. The extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by Don Schoendorfer is an inspiration and credit to the state of California and to his fellow Americans.