Acts of Kindness Lead to Hope and Help

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By Meredy Fullen

"The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor.
   "But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talent, someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate (charity)...all of which has a potential to turn a life around."
- Leo Buscaglia (1924-1998), author, lecturer, founder of Felice Foundation

Some people are born to do charitable works, while others are led to it by a series of circumstances or life-changing events. For Tony Barr, who has continued in his fathers pursuit of a life that offers equality, fairness, and balance to all people, it seems that both would be appropriate assumptions.

Nearly 35 years ago, in 1970, William G. Barr, a wealthy land developer and state legislator, became the victim of a hate crime. Barr often found himself on the receiving end of crimes aimed at individuals opposing segregation after he built an interracial apartment complex in Joliet, Illinois. In fact, one day he nearly paid with his life for his convictions and his commitment to equality when he was the victim of a car bombing that caused the loss of his right leg above the knee. Barr survived that attempt on his life, but after becoming an amputee, he found himself charged with launching new battles, both personal and political.

Just two years after Barr suffered the loss of his leg, fate would deal a ridiculously ironic hand to his son Tony as well. In 1972, standing on the platform of a railway station, Tony was inadvertently pulled into the path of a passing train, which severed a portion of his left foot. Like his father, Tony became an amputee.

Search for Quality Care

Disappointed with the choices of medical and prosthetic care available to them at that time, Bill Barr set out to find the quality of care of which he, his son, and all amputees are worthy. This search led them through a series of medical and O&P personnel. In their search, they also learned of a little-known surgical procedure for amputations called the Ertl procedure, named for the surgeon who first introduced it. Little did they know at the time that this would become a platform and a cause upon which the success of their future foundation would be built.

The elder Barr again placed himself in the center of controversy, lobbying for improvement, education, state licensure, and regulation in the O&P industry. He founded a nonprofit organization called the Institute for the Advancement of Prosthetics (IAP) in Lansing, Michigan, which focused on patient care and prosthetic research. The center was later sold to Hanger Orthopedic Group, Bethesda, Maryland, in 1992. The Barrs used the money from the sale to fund the Barr Foundation.

Three years later, in the hopes of gaining a stronger voice and expanding outreach, the Barr Foundation regrouped with a new alliance, emerging with a new name and a new mission. The Barr/United Amputee Assistance Fund (BUAAF) was founded in 1995 with grant money from the original Barr Foundation.

Tirelessly Helping

Tony Barr, Wayne Koniuk, CP, and David Werner, director of HealthWrights (center) with Project PROJIMO staff in Mexico.
Tony Barr, Wayne Koniuk, CP, and David Werner, director of HealthWrights (center) with Project PROJIMO staff in Mexico.

Since 1995, the Barr Foundation has tirelessly worked to continue raising its ability to help amputees through donations of in-kind services from practitioners, product donations from manufacturers, and financial support from anyone who is able to give. Because of these donations, the Barr Foundation has provided assistance for over 800 amputees in 43 states and ten countries, helping them to become 'Whole Again', as the foundations motto emphasizes. Tony Barr says, "The concept of 'Whole Again', [ also the title of the book co-authored by his father] is not merely providing an artificial limb, but also providing a method through which the person becomes self-sufficient and a productive member of his/her community once again." He further explains, "Honoring the donors' intent and our responsibility to account for all donations is a major focus of the Barr Foundation. The Barr Foundation insists that any success generated from donations be measured by the complete rehabilitation of the individual and the [enhanced] social and economic roles that people with impairments can have in the future."

While the numbers of amputees assisted through the "Where Hope Meets Help" campaign are too numerous to mention, Tony Barr certainly recognizes the need to do more.

"Through individual, benefactor, and corporate financial tax exempt donations and sponsorships, as well as 'in-kind donations', we are able to provide amputees, who otherwise have NO other financial resources, proper prosthetic rehabilitation for less than $2,000 in the US and less than $200 for each amputee in third-world and developing countries. We have been blessed to have been financially able to provide prosthetic rehabilitation to 100 to 150 indigent amputees each year both domestically and abroad. However, with the proper funding we could easily help so many more," says Tony.

Kindness Vital in Todays World

Sponsor Jon Batzdorff, CPO, and Barr Foundation recipient Inga Lizdeyte are joined by John Crane and Kristine Knox of Otto Bock HealthCare Orthopedic Lab in Santa Rosa, Cailfornia.
Sponsor Jon Batzdorff, CPO, and Barr Foundation recipient Inga Lizdeyte are joined by John Crane and Kristine Knox of Otto Bock HealthCare Orthopedic Lab in Santa Rosa, Cailfornia.

At the same time, Tony realizes that with today's economic pressures, random acts of kindness and charitable works often take a back seat to budgetary concerns for large corporations as well as individuals. In recognizing this fact, Tony comments, "There are many deserving public and private charities located worldwide that are performing fine work. However, I can't think of a better way for manufacturers, corporations, and individuals to not only help people regain their mobility and opportunity to provide for themselves and their families, but also to help give them the dignity of becoming 'Whole Again'! In his song, "Three Wooden Crosses," country western signer Randy Travis probably said it best: "...It's not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it's what you leave behind when you go!"

"In the midst of global crises such as pollution, wars, and famine, kindness may too easily be dismissed as a 'soft issue', or a luxury to be addressed after the urgent problems are solved. But kindness is the greatest need in all those areas - kindness toward the environment, toward other nations, toward the needs of people who are suffering. Until we reflect basic kindness in everything we do, our political gestures will be fleeting and fragile. Simple kindness may be the most vital key to the riddle of how human beings can live with each other in peace." - Bo Lozoff, author and co-founder of Kindness Foundation.