By Dan Walton
Eight-year-old Keira Neal of Fairmont Hot Springs was in Winnipeg last month for this years War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) Seminar, which carried the theme, set the bar high.
Keira, who lost her right leg to cancer at the age of one, took part in the event with around 100 other young amputees, who travelled from throughout central Canada to learn that their disabilities dont have to hold them back from living a full and active life.
The purpose is for the kids to network and learn from each other, said Keiras mother Daphne.
She added that the assembly is also partially for the parents to learn about potential concerns and whats new in the world of prosthetics.
And for some of the parents with younger kids, to see the capabilities of the older kids is inspiring, Daphne said.
Keira was still a toddler when she attended her first CHAMP seminar, where she and her mom gained tremendous encouragement.
It was really interesting to be able to connect with girls who were 14 and 15 years old (when Keira was just two or three), Daphne said. We talk to them about some of the issues they face, which sports they play, what adaptations they have to use to be successful.
But the roles have since reversed. This time, Keira was able to impress many of the other children who attended this years seminar.
When we were asking each other what sports we play, each person would say one or two sports, said Keira. And I was like, hockey, soccer, swimming, gymnastics, dance stuff like that.
Keira said her athletic inspiration comes mostly from her older brother Ryan.
If he does something Ill copy him and try it thats probably how I got to know and play the sports.
Between presentations at the seminar, there was one sport that dominated the kids free time swimming.
If there wasnt a pool there, we probably wouldnt have made as many friends, Keira said. If the pool wasnt there, then wed just be walking up and down the hallways.
During presentations, the attendees were given progressive advice on dealing with common social challenges faced by amputees.
Following a proactive approach learned earlier through CHAMP, Keira holds a presentation at the beginning of each school year to show her peers her prosthetic equipment.
To alleviate the curiosities of other students, Keira gives them a couple hours to ask her some questions, look at her legs, and just get to know her instead of staring out on the playground, Daphne said.
That way no ones asking me questions when Im trying to do stuff, Keira said. I go through it all on the first day and its over with for the whole year.
Keira has many different prosthetic legs that allow her to perform many different activities. She speaks about the importance of playing safe and shows off several of her prosthetic legs in each school presentation. With subsidies from War Amps, her family has an easier time supporting Keira in pursuing the activities she wants to do.
Everybody there are normal kids, Daphne said. Theyre active and curious its a platform for them to connect with kids that have like-disabilities, and find out what works for them.