Hanger Clinic Patients Share Experience at Challenged Athletes Foundation Community Weekend
New friendships, lifelong mentors, and a love for adaptive sports. Hanger Clinic patients Cameron Lutges and Josie Fouts share their experience attending the Challenged Athletes Foundation Community Weekend.
Hanger Clinic patients and families recently attended the annual Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) Community Weekend in San Diego. This event provides attendees an opportunity to meet new friends and mentors, learn about new technology, participate in adaptive sports clinics, and have fun. Let’s learn more about them and their CAF Community Weekend experience.
Cameron was born without developed tibia bones. At 10 months old, his legs were amputated above the knee, and Cameron eventually learned to walk using prosthetic technology. As a Freshman, he joined the swim team. Throughout high school, he was an inspiration to his fellow swimmers and the squad’s motivating source.
Cameron is currently going to Antelope Valley College for Computer Science with plans to transfer to San Diego State University to pursue a Computer Engineering degree and join the San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey team. “I went to a practice and fell in love with sled hockey. Every time I get on the ice, it is exhilarating, the cold, the wind, the rush of the sport. I am working towards getting my own personalized sled. I am on an even playing field with teammates and opponents using the same equipment, all coming together for the goal.”
Cameron’s CAF Community Weekend Experience
“I have been attending CAF events for some time. My favorite part about these types of events is the lifelong friendships that are developed. The first time I went to a CAF event changed my life. I found the nearest kid who looked like me and started playing. Then I met older attendees with limb loss who continued to mentor me and encourage me after the event. I am still fortunate to consider many of them close friends today. Now it’s my opportunity to give back and be a role model for the younger kids.
At this year’s event, I started Friday watching young kids surfing at the surf clinic. It’s inspiring watching kids of different abilities get on the board, fall off, and get right back on again. They feel unstoppable and empowered when they look around and see other kids out there, just like them. Later that day we went to the Belmont Amusement Park. It’s an indescribable feeling watching the younger kids have fun and walk around with a group of people who are like them.
Saturday they held running and swimming clinics. Despite being a swimmer, I spent most of my time at the running clinic. I love the running clinic because attendees get to try out running blades, get help with parts, and get right back out there. The adults run with the kids, encourage them along the way, and help them when they need it.
Sunday was the triathlon where you could run, bike, or swim. I opted to cheer everyone on for their events and share my experience with other attendees.
Robert Salone, board certified prosthetist and orthotist and the staff at Hanger Clinic Santa Clarita have been an instrumental part of my life. From the time I first started going there, they made me feel like family. The clinicians and patient ambassadors always take the time to ensure my prosthetic technology is optimized for me before I leave the clinic.
If someone is thinking about attending this event, or is new to the limb loss world, it’s a great opportunity to meet other people like you. Even if you don’t participate in sports at the event, I’ve seen people who haven’t been really using their prosthesis pushing themselves to walk those extra steps or try something new for the first time. The whole weekend is just incredible, and everyone is there to support one another.”
Born without a left hand, Josie has a congenital upper limb deficiency. As a young child, she tried wearing a prosthetic, but it didn’t seem to quite fit her life. She went on to become a microbiome lab manager. It was then she started to think about how a prosthesis may benefit her work. But it wasn’t until she started full-time road bike training for the Tokyo Paralympics that she reached out to Jon Skerritt, CPO and Hanger Clinic Hillcrest to be fitted with a prosthesis again.
“I found I was really imbalanced and it was taking a toll on my body, especially when I was riding on my bike. Then I took a fall before Tokyo and separated a ligament in my shoulder. I realized I needed to address my imbalance. I reached out to Hanger Clinic and found the support I needed. The clinicians worked with me to optimize my prosthesis and help balance out my riding position. Despite not road racing in Tokyo, I’ve found a new love for mountain biking that I want to share with others.”
Josie’s CAF Community Weekend Experience
“This was my first time attending the CAF Community Weekend. The most powerful part of the weekend for me was being surrounded by other Hanger Clinic Patient Ambassadors and attendees living with limb loss. We shared our lives and experiences with each other and instantly connected at a deeper level. Living with a limb loss, sometimes activities take more effort and can be physically and emotionally draining. They understand that, and my desire to not let it hold me back or get me down. I sometimes feel like I need to defend myself to people not living with limb difference. Being around other attendees and Hanger Clinic Patient Ambassadors, I didn’t feel like that.
The most impactful day for me was Sunday. When I first met up with everyone in the morning, I wasn’t sure if I was going to participate in the triathlon. But everyone there was so fully and unconditionally supportive of me as a challenged athlete, a woman, and a person, that it gave me the encouragement I needed to do the 50-mile bike ride. I hopped on my bike, skirt and all, and rode with para cyclist Todd Keith who I had met at prior events. Some para athletes were riding by themselves, but we decided to stick together. When Todd dropped his chain, we pulled off, and then caught up with the pack again. It was such a fun experience!
After the race I met a girl who had a similar amputation to me. I felt immediately like we were family. I learned about her prosthesis, showed her mine made specifically for biking, and told her to reach out to me when she is ready to build a bike that works for her. It felt so good to connect with another athlete. I later connected with a 10-year-old who had been going to CAF events for many years. I sat down and chatted about what I could learn from her. I want the younger generation to feel valuable and heard. I then tried riding a trike, something I had never done before. It is great that attendees get to try something new.
In the end, time went by so fast. I treasure the new friendships I’ve made and opportunities to share with others just like me.”
Challenged Athletes Foundation
Millions of individuals living with physical challenges do not have access to the critical adaptive sports equipment and programming needed to be active. Since 1994, the Challenged Athletes Foundation has been committed to creating opportunities so individuals with physical challenges can live full, healthy, and active lives.
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If you or someone you love are looking for personalized prosthetic care following amputation, get in touch with a board-certified prosthetist at a Hanger Clinic near you.