Winter camp brings joy to teen amputees

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For teenagers who have had a limb amputated, the term “disability” doesn’t describe them in the least.

The Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City has organized a youth camp for teen amputees between the ages of 12 and 18.

The camp, Unlimbited, was created in 2004 as a support group for youth and their peers to be able to talk about their experiences and help each other through building friendships.

Matt Lowell, a physical therapist at the Shriners Hospital for Children as well as co-director of the program, has worked hard to make the camp what it is today.

“A lot of the kids are from areas where they can’t have other experience and they don’t get to talk to people about their issues or concerns,” Lowell said. He said life can be hard for them sometimes since “there’s a high element of just being a teenager.”

The camp developed into a way to allow kids to do fun activities otherwise difficult. In the summer, the youth are taken white water rafting through for a week and in the winter, they are taken snowboarding and skiing.

Marina Ivie attended the camp as a teenager and is now paying it forward as a camp counselor.

I attribute everything to this camp.” Ivie said. “I wouldn’t be who I am or have the confidence I have today without it.”

Ivie attributed her confidence and self-reliance to the camp, which helped her realize how normal she is. As a full-time mom and an executive assistant in an office, she always relays the message to the youth she mentors that “you can do whatever you want. You might have to do it a little different, but you can still do it.”

Kevin Clark is a prosthetist at the hospital, which means he makes prosthetic limbs for the kids. The joy in his job comes from seeing the way the kids mature through the week and the life-long friendships that they make.

Not only do these kids have an effect on each other in their high spirits and confidence, but anyone who comes in contact with them.

“I would not say these kids are ‘disabled,'” Clark said. “While they do all have amputations I would in no way classify them as disabled.”

For more information on this program, visit www.unlimbitedcamp.org.

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