Communities walk to support independence
About 300 people came out to support, walk, and raise money for the foundation, which provides programs for people with disabilities.
Christine Muller, president of The Independence Foundation, said the non-profit organization was formed in 2005. Its mission is to help people with disabilities lead independent lives by offering accessible housing, social events, employment, and other opportunities.
The Walk for Independence is one of the biggest events the organization hosts according to Muller.
“The walk started because we wanted to provide wheelchair soccer, and it grew into much more than that,” Muller said.
The money raised from the event provides funding for The Independence Foundation’s programs for the entire year.
“It helps to maintain the three Independence Houses that we operate in East Aurora. It also pays for wheelchair soccer, social events, the equipment loan closet, the Christmas wish program, and the bus that provides transportation,” Muller said.
Each year, participants walk around the path at the Elma Village Green to raise money. The Independence Foundation also provides sponsor packages for individuals and businesses, who wish to contribute to their programs.
Basket raffles were new to the event this year. Big-ticket items included a guitar signed by the members of the Goo Goo Dolls, a Nike golf bag and accessories, and an overnight package for the Hampton Inn.
“We had all kinds of things going on. There was lunch, music, face painting. This year we also had a hot air balloon,” Muller said. “Due to the wind, it was tethered so people could take a ride up and down.”
The Independence Foundation raised about $21,000 on the day of the event alone. Muller said this is $6,000 more than the foundation raised in past years.
“The total fundraising number right now is approximately $33,000 with money still coming in,” Muller said.
The foundation has already used some of the money it raised to purchase special equipment for individuals.
“There’s a young man, about 7 years old, who we bought a $3,000 walker wheelchair for,” Muller said. “We also put three beach wheelchairs on area beaches, and we bought some sit to stand equipment for the houses.”
Not only does the fundraiser help the foundation and people with disabilities, but the event also helps the participants, Muller said.
“Most people have no idea what it’s like for someone with a disability. It’s a different experience, and being around people with disabilities gives others a better understanding,” Muller said. “We really appreciate the community’s support each year, and that’s what makes it all possible.”