Many people contribute to a charitable cause without ever seeing firsthand how the efforts are helping those in need. But last year, Dani DePetrillo, chief operating officer of Right at Home Canada, which provides in-home care and support, got to witness something “tremendous.”
DePetrillo was in Costa Rica as part of a week-long mission trip with seven others from Right at Home, along with two representatives from Free Wheelchair Mission, Right at Home’s international charity partner. As part of the mission, the team assembled and distributed wheelchairs to those in need in the community. Among the recipients was a man with amputations of his lower limbs from severe diabetes who needed to be carried to go shopping, a six-year-old child who needed her brother to carry her to school, and a 92-year-old woman with advanced dementia who had lost mobility and relied on her family to move her.
“In each case, the recipient’s family welcomed us as a group into their home. We were able to actually witness that person have the gift of mobility for the very first time,” recalls DePetrillo. “It’s very emotional. A lot of these recipients lived their life on the ground, and we saw them elevated to chair level, where they were able to look another human in the eye as opposed to looking up at them. They were so gracious and thankful. It was an amazing experience.”
These annual mission trips have become a foundational component of the international partnership between Right at Home and Free Wheelchair Mission, which started in 2017.
“We picked Free Wheelchair Mission for a number of reasons,” explains DePetrillo. “First, their mission is certainly aligned with our mission, which is to improve the quality of life of those we support through our care services. Second, they have an international presence, as well – they work with 93 countries to help people within those developing countries access much-needed wheelchairs for mobility.”
DePetrillo says Right at Home, which has offices in eight different countries, sets its charitable goals at the annual Home Improvement Conference, and almost always sets a goal of providing one container of wheelchairs to a specific country in need. They also plan to participate in the mission that will see selected representatives assemble and distribute the wheelchairs to those in need in that country.
Franchisees are also eager to contribute to the cause. “We actually have our first franchisee attending a mission trip this year. Nancy Esson from our Collingwood Georgian Triangle office is going to Ecuador on a mission trip,” notes DePetrillo. “We’re seeing a lot of our mature offices, the ones that want to really start giving back to efforts outside of their own community, showing interest. We also have caregivers within our system showing interest and wanting to participate.”
While mission trips are a key component of the partnership with Free Wheelchair Mission, franchisees are also encouraged to support the cause through local awareness campaigns, including donation pages and other local fundraising efforts. DePetrillo says that through a multi-level awareness campaign across the international system, Right at Home has been able to contribute $180,000, which is about six containers worth of wheelchairs, to various countries.
Right at Home plans to continue its relationship with Free Wheelchair Mission, says DePetrillo, and is looking to grow its contributions both through donations and charity efforts.
“What we do every day is a point of pride for us, in terms of being able to assist families who are challenged with caring for loved ones,” says DePetrillo. “At the heart of our organization is that human element, and really wanting to give back to our community, and to humans as a whole. We can do that directly through our care services, but we want to be able to do more. It’s just about trying to touch more lives.”
By Lauren Huneault