As I stepped into the room, the colossal screen depicted the journey – me, alongside Mark and John, in their electric wheelchairs when they joined for part of my 5 trails of Hong Kong challenge - Run for Freedom. The room buzzed with energy, an eclectic mix of around 800 individuals, the majority sharing a common thread – resilience in the face of disability. This gathering marked the 24th anniversary of 1st Steps Association.
Esther, Pili, and I exchanged glances, marvelling at the profound impact our collective steps had unleashed. It all began with the simple act of taking our first strides, evolving into a monumental achievement – the completion of the challenging Hong Kong 5 trails - 398km with d+ 19,500m of elevation - I became the first person to achieve this.
Every person in that room, each one of us, had been touched in some profound way. Whether it was the electric wheelchairs we provided or the initiative to relocate repairs to an indoor facility, shielding them from the unpredictable Hong Kong weather – our endeavours had far-reaching effects.
Seated at our table, we engaged with fellow fundraisers, each one radiating excitement and awe at the sheer magnitude of what we had collectively achieved.
The crowning moment arrived during the ceremony, where we found ourselves on stage, bestowed with plaques as a token of gratitude for the help, support, and awareness we had fostered.
Yet, the real magic unfolded when the spotlight shifted to the unsung heroes – the volunteers repairing wheelchairs. A group of retirees, some as old as 90 but appearing ageless at heart. When thanked, their response was a humble acknowledgement that it was they who should be grateful, as their involvement bestowed upon them a renewed sense of purpose. A poignant reminder of the vitality of purpose for longevity.
The stage then belonged to a remarkable group of ladies, some in wheelchairs, some able-bodied, crafting specialized waterproof covers and bags for wheelchair-bound individuals – items not found on store shelves but indispensable for those in need.
Our encounter with Angel, a spirited lady challenging the constraints of muscular dystrophy by embracing camping and sailing, left an indelible mark.
Among the lessons learned, a glaring need emerged for smart devices in their homes. A new mission was born – to raise funds and fit 100 households with these transformative devices.
In this room, the true power of collective benevolence unfolded. 1st Steps not only aids disabled individuals but empowers them to extend a helping hand to others in the community. From a simple chat to changing and repairing wheelchairs, the circle of support perpetuates, inspiring all.
I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all who contributed to this transformative journey. The impact has been colossal, tantamount to saying – lives have been changed for the better.
As I reflect on this day of impact and inspiration, the enduring lesson is clear: when united by purpose, we can create ripples of change that reach far beyond our imagination.
Jo Lodder is a trail runner, business leader, and philanthropist. He's the co-founder of JNW Asia, a property marketing company based in Hong Kong focused on Niseko projects, and a master agent of SnowDog, a hospitality brand. He's also became the first person in history to complete the HK5Trails in Hong Kong with the Run for Freedom challenge to raise money for charity.
With a passion for helping others and a drive for success, Jo inspires through his love of adventure and entrepreneurship.
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