Local veterans confined to wheelchairs now have another option, thanks to an extra dollar at the drive-through or counter.
Stand Up and Play, a foundation that helps paralyzed people stand to play golf or other sports, now has a Charlotte-area Paramobile for use free of charge. A Paramobile is a three-wheeled device that lifts people into a standing position. Or, as founder Anthony Netto describes, “it’s a Hummer wheelchair.”
The foundation paid for the Charlotte-area Paramobile through donations from Hardee’s stores.
“These dollars made a difference,” said Bryan Haas, past president of the company franchise association who owns restaurants in North Carolina and Georgia.
Hardee’s and its affiliated companies host Stars for Heroes each year, where patrons pay a dollar to support military charities. About 3,500 locations nationwide will participate when Stars for Heroes begins May 20.
Last year, the companies collected more than $1 million for two national and dozens of regional charities, with more than $3.5 million collected since 2011. Stand Up and Play returns as a recipient this year.
“It’s just wonderful to give back to our community,” Haas said. “There’s just not a better cause than our veterans.”
Dwight Hammill lives in Denver, N.C. He was injured in a motorcycle wreck in 1987. He received one of the original prototypes eight years ago for what became the Paramobile. Because of last year’s fundraising, Hammill now has a Paramobile that others can use within a 50-mile radius of Charlotte. It is one of only six in the Carolinas.
“It’s good for your mind,” Hammill said.
Netto was injured in 1991. He was shot through the stomach in Iraq. The Paramobile is not exclusive to veterans, but Netto sees promise for people with stories like his.
“I found a way to motivate myself in helping others,” he said. “It put me on a new mission.”
Netto and Hammill say the Paramobile is great for golfing, fishing and skeet shooting, but also for standing to hold a conversation with someone on equal footing. Or to hug a wife or child. Many people take sayings like “united we stand” or “won’t take this sitting down” for granted, Netto said.
“Those are sayings for most people, but for us it’s a need,” he said.
Hammill plays golf up to three times a week with his. Netto plays tournaments where he can spread the Paramobile message. Some use it for basketball. It covers most terrain. The Paramobile even has a lawnmower connection.
For people who suffer injuries, the idea of giving up is as much a challenge as the physical limitations, Netto said.
“We’re hoping to change that by giving them that mission, to let them be a family man, a husband,” he said.
The German-made units can cost $30,000. The foundation has a commitment that ordering 100 of them would mean a move to produce them domestically. Hardee’s hopes to help.
The goal this year is $1.2 million nationwide. Money raised will go to several military charities. Patrons will have their names put on a star and receive coupons worth $10 of in-store food for each dollar donation. All five Hardee’s locations in York County are participating.
Haas, who met Netto when the veteran was threading 300-yard drives for donations at a golf tournament, said the foundation and Netto in particular align too closely with what his company wants to be, not to help.
“If he can give his whole life to helping others, I can give a little bit of my time helping him,” Haas said.