Gayle Anderson reports on the 2024 AARP Purpose Prize Winner Don Schoendorfer of Irvine, California, founder and president of Free Wheelchair Mission.

The biomedical engineer, who holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and a PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT, was inspired to create special wheelchairs during a trip to Morocco. There, he saw a woman with disabilities crawling across a dirt road. Don used his engineering background to design a wheelchair that could be distributed easily in developing countries. Since then, Free Wheelchair Mission has shipped nearly 1.4 million wheelchairs to people in 94 countries who would not otherwise be able to afford one.

The AARP has selected Don Schoendorfer as one of its 2024 AARP Purpose Prize Award recipients. The one-of-a-kind national award honors people aged 50-plus who have proven that they are using their knowledge and life experience to make a difference. Five AARP Purpose Prize Winners who have founded a non-profit will receive $50,000 for their organization. In addition, 10 AARP Purpose Prize Fellows and their organizations will be recognized with an award of $10,000. All award recipients will also receive a year of technical support to help broaden the scope of their organization’s work.

Donations are important to the nonprofit organization, especially during this season of giving. If you would like to help, and if you would like more information about Free Wheelchair Mission, take a look at the website:

To learn more about the AARP Purpose Prize, there’s the website:

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Gayle Anderson at 323-460-5732, email Gayle at, Facebook: Gayle Anderson, Instagram and Threads: KTLAChannel5Gayle, and X (Formerly Known As Twitter:) KTLA5Gayle.

Gayle Anderson reports for the KTLA 5 News on Nov. 20, 2023.