Kaitlin's Mobility Foundation is active in helping children with mobility needs in Guatemala. Since 2002 we have led four teams to the country, teams of volunteers to do children’s ministry, medical missions, construction, outreach and evangelism, wheelchairs, testimonies, and much, much more. And we plan to continue! But it doesn’t stop there. Our prayer is to reach more, do more, no matter where that road leads. Partner with us, in prayer, financial giving, or go!
Two non-profit organizations (In His Steps International Missions, Inc. and Kaitlin's Mobility Foundation) teamed up to give custom wheelchairs to several children born with conditions such as Spina bifida and Cerebral Palsy in Coban, Guatemala.
Here is how we got started!
"A girl who reminds us always to rejoice" by Candy Hatcher, Seattle P-I Columnist, March 2002
The most powerful lessons of Holy Week -- faith, sacrifice and compassion -- come not in a sermon from a high church pulpit, but from the legacy of a child in a wheelchair. Little Kaitlin Whitfield, a 6-year-old from Everett, had epilepsy, microcephaly and pancreatitis, among other things. She was blind. She never spoke. Her degenerative disorders kept her from developing past the mental age of 5 months. But she taught everyone who met her about compassion, about appreciating people for what's in their heart, not how they look.
Kaitlin's parents, Doug and Carol Whitfield, wanted to share that spirit. Before their younger daughter died (in 2001), they established a foundation to help other families with disabled children. They provided electronic lifts for several specialized vans, gave their own van to another family and traveled to Guatemala with boxes of equipment and medicine for poor children with disabilities.
The day Christians commemorate Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, the Whitfields are a refreshing antidote to the hypocrisy and abuse we've recently read about in more than a dozen parishes. The couple watched Kaitlin suffer and die, but they have kept their faith, focused on what they learned from her, and helped other children who were suffering. Not because it was their job, or because they'd get publicity, but because it was right. Their story is a powerful testimony. And it's a reminder that for all the hypocrites, for all the people who preach one thing publicly and do the opposite in private, there are others who walk the walk.
Kaitlin's Mobility Foundation is still a small charity. But the organization's size and lack of money didn't matter when the Whitfields began to sense they had work to do in Guatemala. About three months after Kaitlin's death, Doug Whitfield, a Boeing engineer, was talking to a friend at work, a native of Guatemala, about orphanages in his country. Were there many disabled children? Did they have wheelchairs? Could they use help?
He called Wheelchairs Northwest and asked whether the company would be willing to help provide chairs for the children. He e-mailed his friend's sister in Guatemala and learned about nearly a dozen children who needed wheelchairs. The orphanage in her town, Zacapa, also needed a doctor to treat sick children. The Whitfields wrote Kaitlin's pediatrician, the man who had loved their daughter and had changed her last diaper when she died. Would he be interested? The responses were overwhelmingly enthusiastic. People donated diapers, vitamins, antibiotics.
The Whitfields left for Guatemala on March 1, 2002 with six other people, including the doctor, a nurse and 10-year-old Janelle Whitfield; 12 suitcases full of medical supplies, toys and medicine; and six big cardboard boxes full of wheelchairs and positioning seats. One of the eight wheelchairs they took was Kaitlin's. Another was from the parents of David, a 9-year-old boy with Down Syndrome who had died in June. The entourage spent a week traveling to small villages and giving wheelchairs to children who never had been able to get around. They put on puppet shows -- the story of the Good Samaritan -- with music lyrics in Spanish. They set up clinics to treat any child who needed health care. They got to know a 12-year-old boy whose mother had carried him everywhere, and they gave him David's chair. Their message: Every child has a purpose. Every child has feelings. Every child needs love.
"There's a purpose and a reason for things," Carol Whitfield said. "What we went through wasn't meaningless. God gave us Kaitlin for a reason. If it weren't for Kaitlin, none of this would have happened."