Cause for Ap­plause: A War Amps Champ

Proud to be part of an or­ga­ni­za­tion cel­e­brat­ing a cen­tury of ‘am­putees help­ing am­putees’

Our Canada - - Contents - By Rob Lar­man, Scar­bor­ough

The War Amps are cel­e­brat­ing 100 years of “am­putees help­ing am­putees.”

When I was 14 years old, in Eto­bi­coke, Ont., my friends dared me to jump onto a mov­ing train—a care­less de­ci­sion that re­sulted in the loss of my right leg above the knee. As I lay in my hos­pi­tal bed af­ter the ac­ci­dent, I felt like the en­tire world was col­laps­ing on me with no pos­i­tive end in sight. That feel­ing was eased, how­ever, when I re­ceived an un­ex­pected visit.

A man walked into my hos­pi­tal room and said, “You know, Rob, ev­ery­thing is go­ing to be fine.” I ran my eyes up and down him and thought, “How dare you say I’ll be fine. You have no idea!” He then rolled up his pant leg to show me that he, too, was a leg am­putee, but he had lost his leg in the Sec­ond World War.

Meet­ing this war am­putee vet­eran was a piv­otal mo­ment in my life, which has stayed with me even now, 40 years later. It has shaped the per­son I am and the work that I do to­day with the War Amps, an or­ga­ni­za­tion founded on the phi­los­o­phy of “am­putees help­ing am­putees.”

I don’t think the war am­putees and dis­abled vet­er­ans who started the War Amps back in 1918 could have imag­ined that the as­so­ci­a­tion would be cel­e­brat­ing its 100th an­niver­sary this year.

On re­turn­ing home from the First World War, vet­er­ans came to­gether to help each other adapt to their new re­al­ity. They then wel­comed the next gen­er­a­tion of am­putee vet­er­ans fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War, cre­at­ing the Key Tag Ser­vice to pro­vide them with mean­ing­ful work and ser­vice to Cana­di­ans.

When these vet­er­ans found that their needs were be­ing met, they won­dered who was there to help child am­putees. In 1975, they started the Child Am­putee (CHAMP) Pro­gram, which pro­vides young am­putees across Canada with fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for ar­ti­fi­cial limbs, re­gional sem­i­nars and peer sup­port.

I my­self enrolled in CHAMP af­ter my ac­ci­dent and went to my first sem­i­nar, con­vinced that I was the only teen in the world deal­ing with an am­pu­ta­tion. When I got there, I saw kids who were just like me. They were run­ning around and hav­ing fun, and I re­al­ized that my am­pu­ta­tion was not go­ing to be a bar­rier to a suc­cess­ful life.

As a young adult, I be­gan em­ploy­ment at the Key Tag Ser­vice, the War Amps lost key

re­turn pro­gram which, with the sup­port of Cana­di­ans, funds its many pro­grams. I worked along­side war am­putee vets, who took me un­der their wing and taught me that I should not be em­bar­rassed about my am­pu­ta­tion, but in­stead wear it as a badge of courage.

To­day, as the di­rec­tor of the War Amps PLAYSAFE/DRIVESAFE Pro­gram, I meet child am­putees across the coun­try, pro­vid­ing them and their fam­i­lies with the same re­as­sur­ance these re­mark­able am­putees gave to me—that ev­ery­thing will be okay.

Although they con­sider them­selves or­di­nary guys, our war am­putees served their coun­try in wartime and con­tin­ued to serve when they came home. They shared their ex­pe­ri­ences and knowl­edge with fel­low am­putees and started vi­tal pro­grams that are still chang­ing the lives of am­putees to­day. They also ed­u­cated Cana­di­ans about am­pu­ta­tion at a time when it wasn’t well un­der­stood. It means so much to me to carry on the work they started into a brand new cen­tury.

I can say with pride that their legacy of “am­putees help­ing am­putees” will con­tinue through me and gen­er­a­tions of am­putees, long into the fu­ture.

The War Amps was started in 1918 by am­putee vet­er­ans re­turn­ing from the First World War.

Clock­wise from right: The legacy of “am­putees help­ing am­putees” con­tin­ues through Rob and mem­bers of the CHAMP pro­gram; a close-up of Rob; Rob and a CHAMP mem­ber lay a rose at the grave of Cur­ley Chris­tian, the only quadru­ple am­putee to sur­vive the First World War.

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