Tom's Heroes: Shirley Russo - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Tom's Heroes: Shirley Russo

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- About 20-million people are immobile worldwide, some disabled by birth defects or disease. Others, by land miles. There are those who can get around by crawling on their hands and knees. Others, have to be carried.
"I can't imagine sitting in a chair your whole life and waiting for someone to come and carry you," said Shirley Russo.

Russo has been traveling to Guatemala for a few years now, giving the gift of a PET. A Personal Energy Transportation System, a three-wheeled, hand-cranked wheelchair.

"This is a gift that can transform a life," said Russo.

Russo is part of a larger team of people across the United States who is raising awareness -- and money -- for the PET Project. And since 2011, more than 27,000 PETS have been built by volunteers, and then shipped to more than 90 countries, giving a gift of hope and a future.

"The thing about a PET is it can transform a life just like that!" said Russo.
A traditional wheelchair often doesn't work in a developing country. The PET is designed to maneuver poor road conditions -- even simple paths -- and cost far less. 

"And beside that, a wheelchair usually costs a person a year salary," said Russo.

"I wasn't ready to see the tears rolling down their faces and the smiles on their faces," said Russo. "You gave up your time and your money, for us that was really the gratifying thing."

Mother Theresa once said, "Do all the good you can, to all people, wherever you find them...with whatever you have to give."

Sometimes it's the simple gift of a PET. Sometimes, it changes lives.

"People need help," said Russo. "I'm able to do a little of it. I'm not changing country or worlds. To see someone drive off in a PET I think, I hardly did anything, but look at them go."

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