Revelstoke local Kendra Blakely has been a part of the War Amps Program since she was two years old, but did not truly discover what it had to offer her until she was in double digits. By the time she was 10, she finally decided that it was time to go to Victoria and meet other children that too were born without a major appendage.
Kendra was born without her left arm, and to her having the use of her right arm and only her right arm is as normal to her as those born with both. When she ventured to Victoria, she as astounded by the friends she made and the bonds that grew over time.
“That is when I had an immediate connection, whether they had the same amputation or not didn’t matter. The bond is formed with those that truly understand your struggle on a personal level. I have weekly or daily calls with friends (from War Amps) and we no longer talk about our situation.”
While Kendra is rather jovially and quite comical about her congenital amputation, when meeting new people there is always an element of wondering how long it will take the individual to notice she has a prosthetic and should she beat them to the question by simply bringing it out in the open.
“A lot of the times I do bring it to their attention. It removed the element of wondering ‘How long is it going to take for them to figure out that I am an amputee?’ That is when I usually let them know.”
Kendra shared a story with the Revelstoke Current that was rather disheartening. An experience she had during what should have been a fun day at Universal Studios, turned out to be a day she remembers as a rather hurtful one. After waiting in line like many travellers do, Kendra arrived to the rides checkpoint. The staff informed her she could not ride the roller coaster unless she removed her prosthetic and handed it to the manager.
“To me, it was like asking me to strip naked. It is a part of my body. It felt like a complete violation of my human rights.”
Kendra is an extremely bright and talented young student who will most certainly flourish in all of her life’s endeavours and overcome any obstacles life my present. Kendra shared that as someone born without her left arm, imagining the use of it is virtually non-existent. While those of us that have both fully functional use of their arms, we may wonder how she accomplishes certain tasks or goals. Kendra has a rather humorous anecdote that HER Mom shared with her years ago and still uses the example to this day.
“If an alien came to earth with three arms, and asked you ‘How do you function with only two arms?’ the most common response would be- I have only ever known two so I don’t need a third!”
Kendra has returned from The War Amps 2018 BC Child Amputee (CHAMP) Seminar in Victoria. The seminar brought together child amputees from across the province while also marking the 100th anniversary of The War Amps.
As a “Champ,” Kendra is eligible to receive financial assistance for the cost of artificial limbs and recreational devices. By attending seminars, Champs and parents learn about the latest in artificial limbs, dealing with teasing and bullying and parenting an amputee child. Kendra was the Junior Counsellor Coordinator at the Seminar, overseeing the team of older Champs who act as role models and offer advice to younger Champs.
The War Amps was started by amputee veterans returning from the First World War to help each other adapt to their new reality and advocate for seriously disabled veterans. With a philosophy of “amputees helping amputees,” they welcomed the next generation of war amputees following the Second World War and established the Key Tag Service to gain meaningful employment and provide a service to the public. Later, recognizing that their experience could help others, they developed programs to serve all amputees, including children.
Executive Director of the CHAMP Program, Danita Chisholm, says, “Although the Association has developed many innovative and unique programs over the past 100 years, there is still much to do to ensure amputees, like Kendra, have the artificial limbs they need to lead full and active lives. With the public’s support of the Key Tag and Address Label Service, our vital programs for amputees will carry on long into the future.”
As Kendra stated in the interview “It truly is a part of me.”