Cable TV program with a 'heart' to give new wheelchair to Hampstead woman


In the 1950s, Mildred Ewing watched other housewives win appliances and beauty make-overs on the "Queen for a Day" daytime television show.

The show went off the air 30 years ago, but Mrs. Ewing just learned that a new cable-TV program with a '90s take on the "Queen" theme has heard about her. Some time this month, Mrs. Ewing will regain her mobility, via a motorized wheelchair donated through the show.

"All those shows, you think, 'I wish it was me,' " said Mrs. Ewing, 74, of Hampstead. "But you never think it will be."

Her benefactor is a commercial business of some sort, to be revealed when she is featured in a segment on "Have a Heart," an afternoon show on NBC's new cable channel, "America's Talking."

The show airs live from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Carroll County's Prestige Cable does not carry the channel, but it occupies Channel 55 in Baltimore County's Comcast offerings.

Like "Queen for a Day," "Have a Heart" matches donors with people who need something.

Often the donors are businesses or manufacturers that get publicity through their gifts, as with the "Queen" show. But the aims of "Have a Heart" are "connecting people to people" and resolving problems, according to promotional materials from the network.

Patty Smith, a producer of the show, said Mrs. Ewing will be interviewed live on the phone while viewers see a videotape of her at Senior Connections, the Owings Mills adult day care center she attends near her daughter's workplace. Staff members at Senior Connections shot the videotape and sent it )) to producers.

Mrs. Ewing was not aware of "Have a Heart" or its 1-year-old talk-show network until she was told they were giving her a wheelchair. Beth Scovill, a nurse who opened Senior Connections 2 1/2 years ago, was the link between Mrs. Ewing and her benefactors.

It all started when Elizabeth Malis, an independent publicist working with Ms. Scovill, sent some news releases to America's Talking. Ms. Malis stressed Ms. Scovill's work connecting elderly people and their families with the community services they need.

The material caught the eye of someone from "Have a Heart." A representative of the show called Ms. Scovill to ask if she had a client who needed something that the show could procure. "A few weeks later it just dawned on me -- what about an electric wheelchair for Mildred?" Ms. Scovill said.

Mrs. Ewing has health problems that have kept her in a wheelchair for several years. She had a manual wheelchair, but a stroke paralyzed her left hand. Last winter, one-handed wheelchair driving caused her to run into a kitchen cabinet and fracture her foot.

Without a motorized wheelchair, which can cost $3,000 to $5,000, Mrs. Ewing would not have been able to come to the center much longer, and certainly not full time as she wanted. All the clients have some kind of medical or memory impairment, but Ms. Scovill can take a limited number who are as dependent as Mrs. Ewing is now.

"We have a lot of wide open spaces" in the center, Ms. Scovill said. Someone has to push Mrs. Ewing wherever she wants to go. But she'd rather propel herself.

"The more you do for someone, the less they do for themselves," Ms. Scovill said. "And the less they do for themselves, the less they are able to do."

Mrs. Ewing lives with her daughter, Shelby Ewing, and Shelby's husband, both of whom work full time. The day care center offers a safe place for Mrs. Ewing during the day. Until a few weeks ago, she was home alone, except for daily visits from physical therapists and other care-givers.

"I was out for 13 weeks," she said. "I was counting the weeks. It's so nice to come down here. It's my second home, I call it."

At the center, she plays bingo, Scrabble and other games. She chats with other clients who have become close friends. Some days, the children from the day care center next door visit for intergenerational activities. On Fridays, the seniors board a bus for the nearby beauty school for $4 hairdos.

She returned to the center June 20, for two weekdays, spending three days at home with therapists. The therapy will end soon, and she will need to be at the center full time again, she said.

She and Ms. Scovill said it was unlikely that Mrs. Ewing's state medical assistance would pay for an electric wheelchair when she already has a manual chair, and the family could not afford to buy or rent one, they said.

The date Mrs. Ewing will be featured on "Have a Heart" and the arrival of the wheelchair are undetermined. She has been scheduled three times since June, but her appearance was postponed each time.

Whenever it happens, Mrs. Ewing will have to watch the show a day late because the day care program doesn't have cable. Friends will be taping it for her.

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