Amputee ‘CHAMPS’ learn to embrace life ‘Just the Way I Am’

[dfp_ads id=6022]
Amputee ‘CHAMPS’ learn to embrace life ‘Just the Way I Am’
Seen on stage last weekend, teenaged and young adult members of the War Amps CHAMP program help provide support and encouragement to child amputees.
Martin C. Barry

Like a big family brought together for a gathering filled with love and warmth, more than 100 child amputees, along with moms, dads, brothers and sisters, met at the Laval Sheraton for two-and-a-half days last weekend during the War Amps of Quebec’s annual child amputee seminar.

This year’s theme, “Just the Way I Am,” encouraged the young amputees, who are members of the War Amps “CHAMP” program (Les Vainqueurs), to embrace their amputation and overcome hurdles on their road to independence.

There to learn

The event drew young amputees and their parents from across the province. They learned about the latest developments in artificial limbs, how to deal with teasing and staring, as well as how to parent an amputee child.

It was not the first time the Quebec chapter of the War Amps chose Laval for the annual child amputee seminar. With children young and old running freely around a meeting hall at the Laval Sheraton, the ambiance of the opening welcome session was as relaxed and spontaneous as an afternoon gathering of friends and family who had known each other for years.

Amputee ‘CHAMPS’ learn to embrace life ‘Just the Way I Am’
Louis Bourassa, director of the Quebec War Amps CHAMP program, is seen here last weekend at the Sheraton Laval during the opening gathering of their annual child amputee seminar.

Helping young amputees

“When they come here they feel like they are part of a big family,” said Louis Bourassa, director of the CHAMP program in Quebec, who is an amputee himself. Bourassa lost his leg at age four in a lawn-mower accident near his home in Sherbrooke where he lived at that time. He’s been a full-time employee at the War Amps Quebec region offices in Montreal since the early 1990s.

The CHAMP program is organized in a way that encourages the mentoring of very young amputees by others who are teenagers or young adults and whose experiences serve as confidence-builders. According to Bourassa, the program offers something to child amputees that even parents sometimes can’t give.

A second family

“My parents were always there for me,” said Bourassa. “They could love me and provide me with whatever parents can give their children. But as for understanding what it’s like to live with an amputation? This is not always so easy for them. That’s why this is my second family here: people who have been through the same situations and with whom I can share my experiences.”

A young amputee from Laval, Antoine Eoan of Sainte-Dorothée, has been receiving help from the War Amps and the CHAMP program since early childhood. He was born with a condition that necessitated the amputation of a leg. With the help of War Amps, he was able to get a scholarship at Concordia University and is now pursuing film studies leading towards a filmmaking career.