How long have those crutches sat in your attic?
If you’re like most
Westporters Americans: quite a while.
We sprain an ankle or break a leg. We use crutches, then get better. But we can’t be bothered to recycle them, or even throw them out. We keep them, for “whenever.” It’s the way we roll.
Billions of people in the Third World — many of them kids — don’t have crutches. But they need them a lot worse than we do.
In 2009, Westport natives Ken and Beth Shubin Stein, and Beth’s husband Chris Ahmad, did something about this paradox most of us never think about. They formed Crutches 4 Kids.
More importantly, they’ll get a nice check to continue their vital work.
The Crutches 4 Kids guys (and gal) come by their passion naturally.
Ken and Beth — twins who graduated from Staples in 1987 — come from a medical family. Their father is a cardiologist, their mother a fertility specialist. The extended Shubin Stein family has long believed in medical charity — and acted on their beliefs.
Ken graduated from Albert Einstein Medical School. He’s now a founder and managing member of Spencer Capital, a value investing firm.
Beth’s husband Chris — a former Columbia soccer player — is an attending orthopedic surgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He’s also the Yankees’ head team physician.
Ken has a home near Compo Beach. Beth and Chris spend their summers here — and will soon move to Westport full time.
But all 3 know that life in Westport is not the real world.
“There are 3 huge groups that need crutches,” Ken says.
“Over a billion people live in areas so poor, like Africa and central India, that there’s no infrastructure for access to even basic medical care.
“There are places of violence, like Sierra Leone and southeast Asia, where kids are collateral damage.
“And there are natural disasters, like the earthquake in Haiti or tsunamis, where there’s a sudden need.”
Many medical problems — like getting medicine to AIDS patients — are almost impossible to solve.
Collecting and distributing crutches is not like that.
“There are no barriers,” Ken says. “There’s a massive supply of crutches over here, and a massive demand over there. We hook them both up. It’s very direct, and very impactful.”
Columbia and the Hospital for Special Surgery have been very supportive of Crutches 4 Kids. But that early boost from Bedford — when guidance counselor Lisa Weitzman helped spearhead an enormous drive — showed the organization’s founders that their simple idea really could work. More than a dozen drives, at other schools, have followed.
“This is so cool, for 3 reasons,” Ken explains.
“First, we teach kids about social service. Whether it’s wealthy Westport or low-income Stamford, any American kid can help collect crutches — and help other kids around the world. That’s a fantastic education.
“Second, we recycle.
“Third — and most importantly — we give the gift of mobility. We help kids walk.
“Doctors who worked in Haiti told me about kids who had legs amputated — Civil War-type medicine — because they had no other equipment. There was no pain medicine; kids sat on the floor with bloody stumps. Doctors I know were horrified and traumatized. Giving crutches to kids like that is the least we can do.”
Being honored by the Yankees for their work is nice, Ken says.
But he cares more about the check.
“We’re on a shoestring budget. Every dollar is important, to help us attract more donations and volunteers.”
And help clean out more attics, of more forgotten, unused crutches.
(Click here for more information about Crutches 4 Kids.)