By Brendan Burke 
BELLEVILLE – A non-profit fundraiser at Boston Pizza Belleville’s Celebrity Server Night served up more than wings and pasta Monday. Hope was on the menu.
Wheelchair of Hope Foundation , a community-focused organization that connects in-need individuals with mobility devices such as power chairs and walkers, welcomed residents and supporters to join its board of directors at the restaurant from 5 to 8 p.m. With 10 per cent of sales from food, bar and delivery going to the foundation, the event aimed to raise funds leading up to Wheelchair for Hope’s upcoming annual gala.
But the night wasn’t just about raising money.
“This evening is all about the connection to the community and the Wheelchair of Hope Foundation,” John Cairns, founder and president, told QNet News.
With a platform provided by Boston Pizza  – which offers the same 10 per cent donation to various other charities at fundraising events every year –Cairns said the evening also served to boost awareness about the need for mobility devices, while increasing the foundation’s visibility within the community.
“It’s an excellent opportunity to … profile our impact and the effect we have in a tangible way in people’s lives within the community … the way in which we provide freedom through mobility devices.”
Launched in 2014, Wheelchair of Hope Foundation receives gently used wheelchairs and other mobility aids from individual donors as well as hospitals and other non-profits including the Red Cross . Wheelchair of Hope then connects eligible recipients with the equipment they need – the cost of which can range from $2,000 to $30,000 – and otherwise would not be able to afford.
The difference made by these deliveries is what drives Mike Wilcox, a director at Wheelchair of Hope Foundation who was at Monday’s event, to continue to give back.
“A lot of wheelchairs, power chairs and walkers are going to landfills. Meanwhile there’s people that are locked and trapped in their own houses. After a few deliveries where people are virtually in tears when you’re providing them with a chair of walker, it just makes you want to do it that much more,” Wilcox said.
Dianna Cairns, Wheelchair of Hope Foundation’s treasurer, told QNet News that it’s hard to put into words the response she gets from thankful recipients, but that the delivery of devices helps people regain their sense of autonomy and freedom.
“They don’t have to necessarily rely on people all the time,” she said. It also gives them a better chance at employment opportunities, as well as “just going to the store, being able to go outside – those kinds of things we take for granted.”
Dianna Cairns is the niece of Wheelchair of Hope’s founder, John Cairns, a double amputee. Witnessing his experiences and struggles with mobility pushed her to help others, she said.
“Watching what he went through and what he’s come from … I’d really like to be able to help other people and be successful even though they may have mobility problems.”
John Cairns, who wears a prosthetic arm and leg following a workplace accident, is no stranger to giving back. A philanthropist, motivational speaker and winner of the 2016 Peter Soumalias Unsung Hero Award , Cairns is actively involved in efforts to better the lives of others. While Cairns no longer requires the use of a wheelchair, he once did – a perspective he credits in forming his desire to help.
“I completely, from my heart and my mind, I understand what that is … I can wholeheartedly appreciate the challenges inherent. I live … knowing I was given a miracle to be here and use my experience not only in the way in which it has benefited my own life but the way in which it brings inspiration, hope, motivation and empowerment to other people,” he said.
Cairns said he hopes to continue to empower and motivate through Wheelchair of Hope Foundation’s third annual gala and fashion show on April 29, dubbed Catwalk4Change . The event, which will include cocktails and dinner, will see both able-bodied and disabled models strut their stuff on the runway.
Doors for the gala, hosted at Occasions by the Bay  in Trenton, will open at 6 p.m. Tickets for the fundraising event are $125.