Ryan Chartrand

Here at Cal Poly, it’s hard to imagine not being able to attend class because of a disability that requires a wheelchair.

But in Argentina, many disabled people are confined to their beds, unable to attend school and work or even go to another room in their own house because they can’t afford a wheelchair.

The Cal Poly Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation is kicking off its 2007 campaign with a tennis tournament fundraiser Oct. 20-22 in an effort to give hope to some people in need. The group hopes to raise at least $66,000 with the tournament and other events throughout the year to send more than 800 wheelchairs to Argentina.

The tournament will host singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches for men and women at Cal Poly’s tennis courts. The event is open to anyone 18 years of age and older.

The cost is $25 for singles players and $40 for a doubles team, with Cal Poly students receiving $5 off the entry fee. Entries will be accepted through Oct. 17.

“It’s a small way to contribute to a great cause,” said the group’s media relations manager, Kelly Hurley.

There will be separate divisions for beginning and advanced players, but the Wheelchair Foundation is encouraging anyone to attend, even if they’ve never played tennis.

“We’re just trying to get everybody and anybody out there to have fun,” tournament manager Maggie Higgins said.

Participants are asked to bring their own racket or to rent one from the Cal Poly Recreation Center if they don’t have their own. Tennis Warehouse, the event’s sponsor, is donating tennis balls and a top-quality racquet to be auctioned off during the tournament.

The Cal Poly chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation is made up of 22 students, led by chapter adviser and marketing professor Lynn Metcalf, working to raise money to distribute wheelchairs to people in need as part of their senior projects.

But Hurley says that working for the Wheelchair Foundation has more rewards than just getting credit for a senior project.

“It’s a lot more than that to us, it’s a cause. It’s really inspiring to keep going and keep working,” she said.

Students working on the campaign, mostly business majors, were recruited last spring and make up the biggest group the chapter has had to date. They chose to distribute wheelchairs in Argentina from a list of countries that are in need.

“It’s about raising money, but it’s also about raising awareness. It’s hard to imagine not having mobility,” Hurley said.

According to the chapter’s press release, it’s estimated that only 45 percent of Argentina’s population has health coverage, but there are nearly 3.5 million disabled persons, with that number increasing by approximately 150,000 every year.

Last year’s group raised approximately $66,000 to distribute wheelchairs to children and adults in Belize. This past August, Metcalf and six chapter alumni went to Belize to hand-deliver the wheelchairs.

Other fundraising events include a showing of “Beetlejuice” at the Fremont Theatre in downtown San Luis Obispo at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26. Tickets are $5 and the event is open to the public.

The group will also host their Sixth Annual Gift of Mobility Benefit on April 14 at the Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach. The event will include dinner and an auction of items donated by community members, with each $75 ticket purchasing one wheelchair for an Argentinian in need.

The Cal Poly Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation is also accepting individual donations.

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