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Two local families thankful for War Amps CHAMP Program

November 7, 2019   ·   0 Comments

Written By ALYSSA PARKHILL

The War Amps hosted a seminar in Kitchener for the War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program in September in which two families from Caledon attended.

The War Amps was founded in 1918 by a group of veterans from the First World War who returned home as amputees. The veterans created an association to assist other veterans from the First World War and then  the Second World War in the challenges they will have while living as an amputee. They also created the Key Tag Service in 1946, which clips onto your house or car keys. If your keys get lost and found, your keys can be mailed directly back to you through the Key Tag Service. 

Today War Amps still runs on their philosophy of ‘amputees helping amputees’ and has the Child Amputees (CHAMP) Program so children receive the help and education that they need.

The War Amps has given the Collura-Clarke family the opportunity to attend the CHAMP Seminar every year since their daughter Calisi was born. They have connected with not only other families who share similar challenges, but with the members of War Amps as well. 

Five-year-old Calisi was born a left-hand amputee. 

“We met so many families who were amazingly supportive from the start. I was able to see all the tips, tricks and tools that were available for Calisi for her everyday needs; things that people with two hands take for granted – like filing our nails or opening up a can of soup,” says Tina Collura, Calisi’s mother. “Talking to the older kids was so inspiring. Hearing their stories, learning from their struggles helped us prepare for what was to come with Calisi.”

She added, “When I was five months pregnant, I found out that Calisi was going to be born without a left hand,” says Tina. “My obstetrician put me in contact with Sick Kids and we met an occupational specialist who told us about War Amps and that we should get in touch with them. A few months after Calisi was born I registered her with the War Amps, and from then on, they were very supportive in answering all my questions and offering to match me up with another mother who has been through a similar situation. They assisted me with the Disability Tax Benefit Application and included us in the Sick Kids Seminar.”

The War Amps supports families not only emotionally, but financially as well. According to the War Amps website, through the Key Tag Service War Amps is able to provide funding for families, whether it be to go to the seminars in which War Amps pays not only for the travel expenses, their meals and accommodations, but also for the children’s artificial prosthetics and devices that they require.

“I can’t say enough about War Amps because we were literally lost, and not knowing where to go, or who to turn to, or where to vent our frustration and what help we can get. How is she going to do things, how is life going to work for her,” says Eddie Clarke, Calisi’s father. “War Amps stepped in, and that was it. And the support she gets, just from the seminars, she sees all the other kids, making new friends, and growing up through it.”

Being five years old, Calisi is going through the question hurdles from school and daycare kids. Classmates are asking her questions about her hand, or they’re staring. But, Calisi’s mom says that she’s beginning to come out of her shell and her confidence is improving. When kids ask her questions, she tells them that ‘she was born that way.’ She rides her bike, skips ropes and loves to write and draw, and is always wearing a smile; nothing holds her back. Go Calisi! 

Nine-year-old Jaxson Potvin from Caledon East also had the pleasure of attending the seminar. 

“It’s a family, outside of your family. Jaxson’s always excited when we get invited to a seminar. There’s two a year, and you get invited to one, “says Rebecca Potvin, Jaxson’s mom. “It’s just great support. It’s amazing when you go and you can just see kids when they walk in, they can be kids, they don’t have people staring.”

Jaxson was born with Poland Anomaly, which is a condition of undeveloped muscles on one side of the body, and resulted in Jaxson being born a right-hand partial amputee. 

The Potvin family discovered War Amps when they were at a Congenial Hand Day at Sick Kids when Jaxson was around the age of five, and a War Amps booth was there. Jaxson’s parents, Rebecca and Craig, were grateful to be introduced to War Amps and only wished it could have been provided sooner. 

“One of the moms there said, ‘oh, are you a part of the CHAMP program?’ And I had no idea what that was. In all honesty, I wish that there was something that they gave to us at the hospital and said, here, this is a great organization you need to get in touch with them,” explained Rebecca. 

She added, “We had missed out on four or five years, going ‘how did I not know about this?’” 

The Potvin family are strong believers of the word ‘can’. There is no such thing as can’t, and Jaxson proves it every day. Whenever a challenge arises where someone thinks he can’t do something? He does, and he excels. Jaxson has been playing hockey since he was four and began soccer not long after he began hockey. He is a social, enthusiastic and happy boy who strives every day with his confidence. 

“He is a very out-going kid. He makes friends easily and he’s not one to hide his hand. He’s confident and he’ll say ‘mom, they’re staring’ and we’ll walk through it, and we’ll say that they’re probably curious, don’t let it bother you. I mean for a kid, it hasn’t slowed him down any,” says Rebecca.

At the seminar this past September, the theme was ‘Just the Way I Am’. According to War Amps the theme was to represent “accepting and owning your amputation, and even wearing it as a badge of courage.” 

Director of War Amps, Rob Larman, an amputee himself, reflects on the importance and significance of War Amps and the CHAMP Program. 

“When you look at the impact this organization has on amputees, we have to reflect back on looking what our veteran members did. We are 101 years old, after the First World War was when these philosophies started forming. Amputees uniting together to act as a fraternal organization helping one another. As the organization grows, those guys in World War One would be astonished on what they created. We are continuing the philosophy of our war amputees’ veterans to meet the needs of Canadian amputees,” says Larman.

He added, “We go to these seminars, and I’m an amputee myself, I lost my leg when I was 14 years old in a train accident, and I know first-hand that the support that you get at these seminars, is everlasting. Because you are dealing with people who have the experience, they are passing on the knowledge. The relationships and friendships that form during these seminars, there’s not a price tag that can be put to it. The confidence that the young children gain from attending these conferences; it’s immeasurable.”

This outstanding organization has provided an overwhelming amount of support, financially and emotionally, for incredible children such Calisi and Jaxson and their families. 

For more information about the CHAMP program and War Amps please visit waramps.ca.



         

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