Disability Issues

Amputee Coalition camp builds support for youth

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Sharing disability challenges with peers who are also dealing with the same thing is important, especially for children and teenagers.

The Amputee Coalition is one organization that has helped young amputees find their peers.

The coalition was founded in the 1980s. Organizers started a camp 13 years ago that has given amputees new experiences, friends and life goals.

"Camp is amazing. It's five days in July. These kids are flown from all over the United States. We had people from Alaska, Austria, South America," said Laura Freeman, a prosthetic resident at Scheck and Siress in Oak Park.

She lost her leg to cancer when she was 15.

"It really threw me for a loop. I didn't know anyone else that was like me. I really struggled with the prosthetics," she said.

Camp changed Laura's her life.

"It's a safe environment where they can come, and the parents aren't there. So, they can try new things, and they can make new friends, and it's just amazing," said Laura. "I decided that I wanted to be able to do that for other people. I wanted to be an inspiration."

Gena Keszel, 17, and Laura Mullen, 19, met at camp. Both are from northwest Indiana and come here for their prosthetic.

"You know, to be able to be with people that are just like you and really share things with each other that you can't share with anybody else, you have this connection on a whole new level, and it's the most amazing thing in the entire world, the best experience I've ever had," said Gena.

"I did not know any other amputees until I went to camp," Laura Mullen said. "I was a camper for six years and a counselor for two."

Gena's camp experiences has encouraged her to become a motivational speaker.

"I travel and talk to different schools and kind of give them my story and how being different is a blessing. It's a beautiful thing. It really makes us stronger. So, that's my little spiel on motivational speaking," said Gena.

And Laura wants to work in this field.

"I wanna do prosthetics just because I've grown up with it, and I really enjoy working with people. And I want to expand on my knowledge of how to do it, and it'll be cool," Laura said.

Amputee youth camp is held in July in Clarkville, Ohio. It's for amputees who are between 10 and 17 years old. Scholarships cover camp costs. For more information:
www.amputee-coalition.org/camp
www.ScheckandSiress.com.

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