Campbell River Rotarian Ian Baikie helps a recipient into their new wheelchair earlier this year in Bali.

Wheelchairs for Moldova, Ukraine and Romania

Campbell River Rotary group continues annual tradition of bringing wheelchairs to those in need

The location of the event may have changed this year, but the cause remains as important as ever.

There are over 160 million people in the world who go without a much-needed wheelchair, according to the World Health Organization. Either wheelchairs just aren’t available where they live, or, if they are, they simply can’t afford one.

So, for the 11th straight year, Campbell River Rotarians are doing their part to help with that, holding their annual Dancing and Tapas fundraiser to send a container full of wheelchairs to some of those people in need.

A shipping container holds 280 wheelchairs, and the organization raises the money to fill it – about $50,000 – over the course of just this one-night event each year. This year’s culinary and dance experience will take place at the Quinsam Hall on April 29 after being held at North Island College with the help of the school’s culinary arts program since 2008.

“North Island College wanted to go a different direction,” Rotarian Tony Fantillo says, “so we’re out at the Quinsam Hall this year, which is a great venue, as well.”

They’ve brought Quay West on as caterers and a lot of the chefs that were involved before are still involved, like Hansi Zihlmann, long-time chef at the Discovery Inn before a car accident took him out of the commercial kitchen. Zihlmann began the fundraiser and wheelchair program back in 2006.

“So it’s not like the food will suffer at all,” Fantillo says with a laugh. “The food will still be unreal.”

And despite the venue and catering change, they still expect a packed house of generous Campbell Riverites ready to have fun and help the cause.

“Campbell River is such a generous community,” Fantillo says. “Year after year, we sort of wonder, ‘are people going to come?’ and every year, it fills up, we have a great time and fill a great need.”

This year’s event will raise the funds needed to deliver a container of wheelchairs to communities in Moldova, Romania and Ukraine in 2019. Each event raises funds for the delivery two years away, so last year’s Wheelchairs for Guatemala fundraiser is providing the chairs for next year’s delivery, for example. They just got back from delivering the wheelchairs for the people of Bali, which was funded by the 2015 event.

Fantillo says the types of wheelchairs they are buying has changed, as well. They’ve gone from a one-size-fits-all-type wheelchair to one that is custom fitted to the user, so from here on out, actual physiotherapists will travel along when the delivery is made to fit each chair to its user. It adds to the cost slightly, but Fantillo says it will be worth it.

“It’s not that much more. They’re about $200 (up from about $175) but there are more choices and making them fit the individual is really a big bonus. If we don’t raise enough to fill a container, we can always invite other Rotary clubs to help us out, and we’ll make sure it’s full.”

Tickets for the event are $50 and are available at Needle & Arts Centre on Shoppers Row, Amy’s Asian Foods and Cafe, either Campbell River Metro Liquor location (Discovery Plaza and Timberline Village).

Anyone interested in donating something to either the silent or live auction at the event can contact Fantillo directly by email at He’ll be happy to sell you a ticket to the celebration at that email address, as well.