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Southern Arizona group restores wheelchairs, gives them to people in need

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TUCSON (KVOA) - For one Tucson woman, one person's trash is truly her treasure.

An organization is putting discarded wheelchairs to good use, restoring and giving them to people who cannot afford or qualify for one.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports Association basketball team had to pause the game, leaving them with some extra time on the clock. That was when this team decided to change the court focusing on giving back.

Mia Hansen is like the coach for this ambitious project. Hansen starts her day at Goodwill, intercepting some wheelchairs that have seen better days. Liz Gulick, the co-president and CEO of Goodwill said Hansen picks up around 20 chairs a month.

She said this is a partnership she is more than happy to assist with.

"We receive these wheelchairs and we can sell them but it's only a small donation," Gulick said. "But if we can give them to Mia, it can go to a good home to people in need. It's a win-win for us."

After the chairs are loaded up and the door to the trailer is closed, the work begins. Her team works together replacing parts with a common goal -- helping people.

Hansen told News 4 Tucson this plan and play has been a long time coming.

"One year ago today, our team was in Wichita at the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, COVID hit and things were starting to shut down." Hansen said. "So we came home and we knew this was a hard time to play. So we decided to pivot and refocus our energy."

In the past few months, Hansen and her team have repaired and given out 250 wheelchairs. Her brother, Mark said there is a dire need in Southern Arizona.

"Even though we have health insurance, there are cracks in the system, and we are getting that stuff back out to people who need it," Mark Hansen said.

People like Norma Trujillo have been on the receiving side.

"I was in a car accident in 2017," Trujillo said. "I was pinned and dragged, which left me an amputee and third-degree burn survivor."

She said her life changed in the blink of an eye.

"During the time in rehab, I was fortunate to meet Mia," Trujillo said.

Hansen and her team passed along one of their chairs to Trujillo. Now four years later, she is giving back now.

"When the one day I woke up from my coma, I said I wanted to help people and show people like me there is hope out there," Trujillo said.

Instead of hearing the bounce of a basketball on the gym floor, this team will just have to do with the tightening of bolts. Hansen said it is all about the rebound.

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Austin Walker

Austin is a Reporter at KVOA News 4 Tucson. He graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in May of 2020.

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