"For every dollar donated, FODAC provides $10.00 in medical items. Since 1986, FODAC has collected, repaired and distributed more than 50,000 wheelchairs," from brochure of Friends of Disabled Adults & Children (FODAC).
Whether or not you are a believer, the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season is quite real, and thankfully it continues to manifest itself in many ways, discernible to the senses and as real as you or me. Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santa Claus and other names and legends are based in the history and tradition of giving and doing for others, selflessly and in honor of Christ and others whom we worship.
In 1986, an aging Vietnam era veteran started to repair wheelchairs in his garage. First as a hobby and then as a calling, as he realized more and more veterans were surviving the variously defined engagements and wars, some minus a limb, some with serious head trauma, but many returning home with immediate needs, and not always finding a V.A. and medical network ready to help them.
Ed Butchart and his wife Annie humbly began the organization, FODAC, Friends of Disabled Adults and Children, giving away repaired wheelchairs and used mobility assistance equipment, now a non-profit serving 20 states, 94 Georgia counties and filling nearly 9,000 equipment requests last year, with an annual budget approaching $9-million.
Ed supplemented his income in retirement, as well as his giving mission, by being Santa Claus during the holiday season, at Stone Mountain Park and other venues and holiday gatherings.
Friends of FODAC helped launch a modest thrift store to support this work and Ed launched a holiday fundraiser, with supporters at the Stone Mountain Memorial Association and Herschend Family Entertainment, to hold a Santa Breakfast at the park, focused on their pediatric clients.
Disabled children who might have felt left out of some of the joys of the holiday season had their own day with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves, a bountiful breakfast buffet and day at Stone Mountain Park, donated by the SMMA, as well as area retailers gifting toys and gifts for each child.
We began our connection with FODAC this way in 1994, with our then two-year old daughter Barclay, at the invitation of then WSB Radio Money Editor, Mike Kavanaugh. Mike would interview Santa (Butchart) each fall around Thanksgiving on WSB, and the pair would plug the modestly priced Santa breakfast, still FODAC's largest annual event fundraiser.
This year at the Stone Mountain Evergreen Marriott Conference Center, the Summit Ballroom was filled to overflow, and FODAC's first Santa sell-out. Next year we move to the bigger ballroom.
Mike Kavanaugh left the stage early with his spirit of Christmas and Hanukkah, but not before recruiting WSB-Radio and Traffic Reporting legend, Captain Herb Emory to co-emcee. Emory brought good humor and cutting up with the kids to the event, and began a tradition of the children singing Christmas carols to wrap up the celebration. At this stage, I moved from an attendee to playing elf to Captain Herb, as he often had to leave a bit early to head on to a Toys for Tots event often scheduled on that same mid-December Saturday.
But unlike applying for disability benefits from the VA or Social Security, FODAC's application process is ONE-PAGE and it's lifetime membership fee is $25.00. After that if you, a family member or close friend are impaired or in need of mobility equipment, you simply go to FODAC's headquarters in Tucker, Georgia, or arrange for the durable medical equipment to be delivered to you, often at no cost.
There is no charge for the use of the equipment. FODAC only asks that when there is no longer any need for the equipment, it is returned to them for repair and re-use.
After Mike Kavanaugh and Captain Herb also left us all too early, our friend and colleague Glenn Burns, Chief Meteorologist for WSB-TV's Action News took over as Emcee. Glenn has a warm and engaging manner with FODAC's clients, sponsors, families and guests, and I think he is part of the draw which made this year's breakfast a sell-out. As this was our family's 25th FODAC Santa Breakfast, and it is the season of giving, also know that you can still contribute online as well at FODAC.org. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Kwanza and all the best wishes for this holiday season and New Year to you and yours.