One of the largest Catholic organizations in the world, the Knights of Columbus, is holding its 129th international convention in Denver and announcing the U.S. tour of its sponsored Haitian amputee soccer team. It is the third time in the organization's nearly 130-year history that the annual convention has been held in Denver.
"The Knights of Columbus bring an extraordinary energy to the re-evangelization of the Catholic Church," Archbishop Charles Chaput said at a news conference introducing the 1.8 million-member organization yesterday. Today through Thursday, Denver's downtown Sheraton Hotel is hosting 85 bishops and cardinals in meetings that are each translated into four languages, in one of the largest gatherings in the U.S. outside the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Denver became the first location west of the Mississippi that hosted the Knights of Columbus with the establishment of a council in 1900. The charter grand knight, John H. Reddin, also established the first councils in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Today Colorado has 16,000 Knights of Columbus members in 142 councils.
Since last year's magnitude 7.0 Haitian earthquake in Port-au-Prince, the Knights of Columbus have raised over $1 million, 70 million volunteer hours and 1,000 wheelchairs for the "Healing Haiti's Children" program which makes makes rehabilitation and prosthetic care available to every child injured in the quake. The program is partnered with Project Mediashare, which runs a hospital in Haiti and a rehabilitation program called "Return to Sport".
Last March the Knights of Columbus purchased a state-of-the-art Ossur International Prosthetics and Orthotics Laboratory through funding of the "Healing Haiti's Children" program. Ossur's founder, Ossur Kristinsson, himself an amputee, also presented over 600 modular prosthetic systems to Project Medishare and the new lab during its ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement then:
We are pleased to be able to help to heal those children injured in the devastating earthquake and to give them renewed hope in the possibility of living life with regained mobility. Providing the limbs, therapy and support to these children is truly a life changing gift, and one that we are very pleased to be able to give in partnership with Medishare and with the help of Challenged Athletes Foundation and Ossur.
The Haitian amputee soccer team, Team Zaryen, coach children in the sport and help them resume their lives despite loss of limbs in the earthquake that the Haitian government says killed over 300,000 and injured another 300,000.
According to an Associated Press report, Team Zaryen will begin touring the United States to work in clinics with soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan as a way to thank the U.S. for its help in Haiti.
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