The Vietnam War was in full swing when Jack Kump marched into a U.S. Air Force recruitment office, 18 years young and determined to enlist. He retreated when his father convinced him to remain in civilian life. Still, as friends joined the conflict and took up arms, he felt a strong sense of gratitude. These men had done something profound for him and for the rest of America.
“They fought for our freedom,” he says. “And years later, many of them are bound to chairs, unable to move around the way they’d like.”
After retiring from a 26-year career as a paramedic, Kump decided it was time to help the veterans he admired so. His wife, Joan Wheeler of Port Orange, FL, agreed; their sizable investment gains could fund outreach in some form. After researching different nonprofits and discovering hidden administration costs in operating fees, both decided to cut out the middleman. Kump contacted SpinLife
, a scooter provider, and formed a partnership.
“Every time we complete an order for scooters, they add one free of charge,” he says.
The most recent scooter giveaway, Kump’s fifth, amounted to 17 four-wheel scooters, which reach a speed of 9 mph and can travel a total of 15 miles before re-charging. Retail cost amounts to about $1,400. To date, Kump and Wheeler have spearheaded the distribution of 67 scooters to Florida veterans in need -- and they trust representatives from the American Legion, Department of Florida to ‘vet the veterans’ they believe will benefit the most.
Scooters are distributed to veterans like Ray Beault, a Vietnam veteran who wrote the American Legion to say: “If I had a scooter, it would significantly change my life.’’
The American Legion representative who selects Tampa Area scooter recipients is David Miller, a Purple Heart recipient and longtime Legion member. Miller is dedicated to making sure veterans’ needs are met, he says, and helps those in Hillsborough and Pinellas any way he can. To choose the scooter beneficiaries, he uses his common sense and looks at myriad factors. The scooters are well-suited for small homes, for example, where bulky walkers or wheelchairs make mobility difficult.
“It’s an amazing thing he (Kump) is doing,” he says. “There are so many veterans who need help.”
The recipient of the 2017 National VA Volunteer of the Year award, Miller serves as an everlasting source of support in the Tampa veteran community. He is affiliated with the Wounded Warriors Ranch in Pinellas Park, where some of the scooters were distributed, and also helps assist single veterans with housing challenges. Recently, he connected a homeless former Marine with Bay Pines and other resources. The woman now resides in a stable residence. He is well-known for telling veterans that if they need anything at all, to contact him. He’ll do his best to help.
Throughout his working life, Kump says, people thanked him for his
help on a regular basis, and the same thought always crossed his mind afterward: I would have done it anyway.
The scooter outreach effort is rooted in a similar sense of personal responsibility. He sees a widespread need and will continue to meet it to the best of his ability for the foreseeable future.
According to The American Legion, Department of Florida, 1.6 million veterans reside in Florida; 22% of these claim some level of disability. Want to help? Contact the local branch of The American Legion
Kump plans to continue his scooter philanthropy on his own terms, he says, but the organization does a stellar job supporting military personnel, past and present. Kump wholeheartedly welcomes others to discover a cause that makes them commit to ‘getting up and doing something’ to support it.
“In this age of COVID-19, there’s a lot of need in different areas,” he says. “Whatever anyone can do to help is good.”
83 Degrees stories about philanthropy and its impact on the community are supported in part through contributions to the Solutions Journalism Fund set up through the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. This fund was developed to support solutions journalism and storytelling that will provide information and build awareness designed to grow support for local nonprofits and their missions. The storytelling will focus on how local charities contribute to community building, public health, the arts, and equity issues as it relates to neighborhoods, education, and the environment. You can donate now by following this link.
Enjoy this story? Sign up
for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.