Spotlight on the Jordan Thomas Foundation

Putting Smiles on the Faces of Children and Their Parents

An Interview With Jordan Thomas, Founder

Jordan ThomasAmputee News: What is the Jordan Thomas Foundation, and what does the organization do? 
Jordan Thomas: I started the Jordan Thomas Foundation while I was in the hospital recovering from the loss of both of my legs below the knee in a family boating accident. Knowing that all of my needs would be provided by my family, yet seeing other children go home without the prostheses that they needed, made me want to do something to help them. My foundation, which I started five years ago, now supports five children with prostheses through the age of 18 (their growth years) at an estimated cost of $100,000-$120,000 per child. My foundation also has a partnership with a rehab clinic in Haiti that provides 8-10 prostheses a week.

AN: How much does it normally cost to help a family?          

JT: Anywhere from $100,000-$120,000, depending on the age and need of each child. The foundation hosts an annual event that normally nets over $80,000, which allows one more recipient to be helped each year. We normally have this much money in the bank before we choose another child to assure that we can provide for them into the future.

AN: What is it like to tell a family that your organization is going to provide prosthetic devices to their child free of charge?

JT: It’s exhilarating. It’s a wonderful feeling to provide for these kids and to help them lead normal, active and happy lives.   Seeing Alaina, the first recipient, walk on two new legs has been one of the highlights of my life. There is nothing better than to see a child move around and be free from the constraints of crutches and wheelchairs.

AN: How can a person get more information on the Jordan Thomas Foundation?

JT: Visit our Web site at jordanthomasfoundation.org. On it are several CNN videos that feature me and the foundation’s work.  There are also photos of each recipient and a brief bio about each one. You may also e-mail info@jordanthomasfoundation.org for more information or help with any questions.

AN: Why did you start the Jordan Thomas Foundation?

JT: I was in the hospital and saw this incredible need that I knew I could meet. It just made absolute sense at the time that this is what I should be doing. My friends and family helped me set up the foundation, and it took off from there. There is nothing greater than seeing a child walk and run.

Jordan ThomasAN: What is your vision for the organization’s future?

JT: To help as many kids as I can. I also want to change the healthcare system so that prosthetics are provided as normal coverage.

AN: How can others help the organization fulfill its mission?

JT: They can spread the message about this work by telling their friends and family. Send people to the Web site for more information. Donate, and help make it happen for more children.

AN: What’s the best thing a recipient of a prosthetic device ever said to you? 

JT: I received a thank you note from Ruby that said, “Dear Jordan Thomas. Thank you for my leg. I like to dance with my new leg.  Love, Ruby.” It’s on the Web site. Anytime we can help someone dance, then it’s all worthwhile.

AN: What advice would you give other people who want to do something to benefit others?

JT: That it starts internally, inside you. That you can’t just think it up and make it happen. It’s a heart issue, a calling. It really starts at the micro level, and the rest follows. It helps to have perseverance and the desire to help others. I think my parents taught me that.

Start with yourself – it makes things happen. Then add a bit of determination, and you will find unlimited possibilities.

More Prosthetics Assistance Resources  

Spotlight on AmpuCamp.org

Reaching Out to People ‘Just Like Us’ – and to More of Them

An Interview With Brian J. Johnston, Founder

Brian J. Johnston and his son, Brennan, who is an amputee

Brian J. Johnston and his son, Brennan, who is an amputee

AmputeeNews: What is AmpuCamp, and what does the organization do?

Brian Johnston: AmpuCamp is a nonprofit organization designed to provide vital support, encouragement and resources to anyone (regardless of age or background) personally affected by or caring for someone with limb loss/difference via on-site and online programs.

The specific purposes and activities of AmpuCamp include, but are not limited to, the following:

 Provide immediate and ongoing opportunities for limb loss/difference individuals and their families and caregivers to connect with others “just like me” for support,  encouragement and mentoring in a neutral, non-threatening and nurturing environment

 Incorporate individual/group therapeutic and recreational activities that are supportive,  engaging and fun (games, sports, arts/crafts, dance, special events, etc.) to help     increase self-esteem, reduce potential barriers (real/perceived) between people, and  facilitate open communication

 Connect participants with various support personnel and organizations (medical,  counseling, rehabilitation, O&P providers, etc.) and others (sports, motivational, celebrity) to explore various personal care options and advancements, elevate morale, and expedite social (re)integration.

 

AN: Why did you start AmpuCamp?

BJ: Studies show the rate of recovery and positive adaptation to a life-altering circumstance such as limb loss can be greatly expedited and enhanced when access to information regarding personal care options and resources such as peer counseling are readily available. More importantly, those personally impacted by limb loss/difference who pursue independent and social activities, including therapeutic and recreational programs, are more successfully/thoroughly rehabilitated and resume active, healthy and productive lives sooner than those without the benefit of such information and support.

As we worked through our own personal experience and frustrations, I was amazed by how far the impact of limb loss/difference could reach beyond the personally affected individual. Whether it’s congenital, an illness, or an accident, the experience of limb loss/difference forever changes the lives of everyone involved, and “routine” tasks often become multi-person, multi-step, multi-emotional events.

While researching existing adaptive opportunities for kids and families, along with sharing our story/video through individual and corporate channels, it became increasingly evident that many people “just like us” considered some type of family support system or program an essential and long-overdue necessity.

Ultimately, it was a conversation during my son’s first prosthetic fitting that initially sparked the idea for AmpuCamp, after we discovered the age barrier that prevents or excludes kids younger than 8 years of age from participating in certain adaptive programs and activities.

 

AN: What differentiates AmpuCamp from other adaptive organizations/events?

BJ: The philosophy and focus of AmpuCamp is simply to give others the support I wish we had – and desperately needed – especially at a vital time when our family was struggling to cope with our young son’s “accident” and effectively navigate the uncertainty of things to come. Based on the reality that “stuff happens” all the time (illness, accident, etc.), where immediate and ongoing support should be readily available, the following table outlines several key components that significantly differentiate AmpuCamp from other organizations/events:

Key Other Orgs AmpuCamp.org
Who? Events are for limb loss/difference individuals only 

Everyone is affected

Events are for limb loss/difference individuals AND their familiesand caregivers
When? 1x year Existing programs are only available once a year, usually during the summer

 

What if an accident happens or support is needed before/after summer?

4x year (1 per quarter) We offer multiple opportunities throughout the year to provide immediate support and

ongoing connectivity

Where? Away from home/family 

What if the location is too far away?

Our goal is to host a distinctly different event each quarter at unique venues (locally) and offer a variety of activitiesto attract/accommodate different interests and participants from surrounding areas
How Long? Usually a weeklong camp 

What if a week is too long or my child isn’t comfortable being away?

Usually held on a Saturday or Sundayand will last for several hours (based

on venue availability/activity schedule)

Allows “local” participants to come and enjoy a unique experience without incurring additional travel/lodging expenses.

 

Usually some type of food, fun

and fellowship included!

Of the adaptive opportunities and programs we researched, none of them were specifically designed or equipped to address the equally-important family, caregiver or sibling needs and/or issues.

Basically, we looked at what everyone else was NOT doing and created AmpuCamp to fill in those vitally important service and support gaps.

 

AN: How much does it cost to participate in AmpuCamp?

BJ: Our goal is to provide cost-effective (free) experiences and events for limb loss/difference participants and their families/caregivers to enjoy. From time to time, there may be a nominal fee associated with highly specialized events, venues and activities. We will do our best to provide “scholarships” (contingent on resources) for those who may need financial assistance in order to participate.

 

AN: What is your long-term vision for AmpuCamp?

BJ: From the beginning, I’ve had the vision to “AmpuCamp the globe” by creating a business-in-a-box support system with training modules and mentoring networks that educate, encourage and equip potential leaders (locally/globally) to successfully launch the AmpuCamp opportunity in their respective areas.

Additional pursuits of interest in my long-term vision for AmpuCamp include:

 Become the leading “First/Next Step” post-operative/rehabilitative resource for various  healthcare providers (hospitals, clinics, O&P providers) and other complementary organizations to further extend rehabilitative efforts and expedite social (re)integration and participation opportunities

 Develop an extensive website/portal/social network (AmpuCamp.org) – a place where limb loss/difference members, various product/service providers, and other industry    professionals can interface, discover new technologies and personal care options, share  professional expertise and personal experiences, and find/offer solutions to challenges  associated with limb loss/difference

 Open a first-of-its-kind adaptive training and event facility locally to augment the  immediate rehabilitative needs and long-term fitness/recreational pursuits of limb loss/difference participants.

 

AN: How would more donations specifically benefit AmpuCamp?

BJ: There are three primary (immediate) objectives that could be achieved with additional funding:

 Solidify our annual events planning/calendar and the potential associated costs with various events (deposits, staffing, equipment rentals, insurance, “scholarships”, etc.)

 Implement various website enhancements to provide more comprehensive and useful online connectivity for the limb loss/difference community

 Purchase a highly-specialized “jungle gym” piece of adaptive training equipment for individual and group rehabilitation/training.

 

AN: How can others help fulfill the mission of AmpuCamp?

BJ: ATTENTION: Volunteers, interns, nonprofit professionals, retired executives, sales and marketing professionals, web/tech wizards, PR and media professionals, stay-at-home moms, corporations, colleges, churches, coaches and kids – and anyone else interested in making a positive impact …

Have you been searching for an opportunity in which to invest a little personal time, talent and treasure?

We welcome potential collaborative opportunities with individuals and organizations that complement our existing message and mission, can enhance our level of service and operations, or have the desire and expertise to successfully grow the AmpuCamp brand/opportunity into a global force for a greater good!

Please visit ampucamp.org/volunteers and submit your information regarding your area(s) of interest and/or expertise. Your time and consideration is greatly appreciated – Thank You!

 

Riding a horseAN: What’s the best thing a participant ever told you?

BJ: I received this e-mail after our very first AmpuCamp event:

Mr. Johnston,

Thank You for sharing your son’s story and video. A friend forwarded the link to your website – as I guess it was their way of hopefully getting me to start moving in a different (and better) direction.

You see, when I left the hospital after my accident/amputation (I’m now an “AKA” above-knee amputee), I became severely reclusive over the last year and a half. Struggling with depression and feeling extremely self-conscious, I didn’t care about, nor did I want to deal with, anybody/anything on any level …

Truth be told, I was suffering from a severe case of “over-analysis paralysis” as the anxiety and fear of leaving the “security” of home and subjecting myself to others who I feared might stare, make comments, or judge me and my leg.

Reading the story you wrote (My Child, My Hero) and then seeing your personal experience come to life in the video was incredibly humbling to say the least! Watching your son overcome the tragic experience and “get back in the game” provided the perfect kick in the pants I desperately needed to snap out of my ongoing mental, physical, social, spiritual downward spiral.

Suffice it to say, words cannot adequately express how grateful I am that you shared your experience – the good, the bad AND the ugly – and turned it into something absolutely wonderful for everyone “just like me.”

It’s difficult to see through the tears right now, for I know had it not been for my friend forwarding the “gift” you’ve created for others that I would still be locked up in my self-imposed prison at home, stuck in a bad mental/emotional rut …

I never realized there were so many people in the same situation, with the same struggles as me!?! And, while I didn’t actively participate at the event, the opportunity to simply watch, speak to and hang out with others “just like me” was totally worth the price of admission (oh yeah, there wasn’t one!)

After the AmpuCamp event, I returned home and began researching various “pay-it-forward” opportunities in my area as you suggested. Who knows, perhaps I can play an active role in future AmpuCamp events? J

Again, THANK YOU for sharing your experience, energy and enthusiasm to make a difference. See you at the next event!

Sincerely,

(Name withheld for privacy)

 

AN: How can someone get more information about AmpuCamp?

BJ: Visit AmpuCamp.org

 

Spotlight on Adaptive Action Sports

Adaptive Action Sports PSA from Adaptive Action Sports on Vimeo.

A public service announcement about the non-profit organization, Adaptive Action Sports.

Spotlight on OPAF & The First Clinics

Allison and Laura on their first dive

Offering Adaptive Recreation for “Regular Joes and Janes”

An Interview With Robin Burton, Executive Director

Robin Burton

Robin Burton

AmputeeNews: What is OPAF & The First Clinics, and what does the organization do?

Robin Burton: OPAF & The First Clinics serve as the philanthropic arm of the orthotic and prosthetic industry in the United States. Our mission is to provide adaptive recreational sports, programs and clinics for those with physical challenges. We do this through First Clinics. ‘First’ indicates that this may be the ‘first’ time that a participant is trying an activity or the ‘first’ time that they are attempting any recreation post surgery, illness or injury. All First Clinics serve as an introduction to a sport or activity to open new doors, both for the activity and for the social aspects that each provide.

AN: How much does it cost to participate in The First Clinics?

RB: All First Clinics are offered at no cost to participants.

AN: How can people get more information on OPAF & The First Clinics?

RB: Please visit the OPAF Web site at opfund.org. A complete list of upcoming First Clinics and events is on the OPAF calendar.

Karen Hughes on climbing wall

Karen Hughes on climbing wall

AN: Why did you start OPAF & The First Clinics?

RB: The organization was originally founded to support the 1996 Paralympic Games when they were held in Atlanta, Georgia. After the Games, the decision was made to continue the movement for adaptive recreation but to focus on the ‘regular Joe’ participant, not the elite athlete, which is the focus of the Paralympic Games. We wanted to offer adaptive recreation and promote socialization of the population. In 2004, First Swing Learn to Golf was the sole First event that OPAF offered. In 2011, there are now eight different First Clinics being hosted across the country, including tennis, swimming, scuba, dance, kayaking, rock climbing and therapeutic horsemanship.

AN: What is your vision for the organization’s future?

RB: To provide a healthy outlet for physically challenged individuals to achieve their best through adaptive recreation.

AN: How can others help the organization fulfill its mission?

RB: As a public charity, we are dependent upon donations, large and small, as well as grant funding and sponsorships. All First Clinics that are held across the country are underwritten through sponsorships. We are constantly looking to expand our reach with First Clinics and offer new opportunities to the physically challenged population. Your gift or donation can make a difference.

First Clinics Chicago

First Clinics Chicago

AN: Is there anything else you’d like to tell amputees about OPAF & The First Clinics?

RB: Do you have an idea for a First Clinic? Please get in touch and let us know! Passion for adaptive recreation and wanting to affect lives is how many of our First Clinics have come to be. First Climb was the vision of Ronnie Dickson, an amputee rock climber.  McKeever’s First Ride, which is therapeutic horsemanship, was the dream of Deenie McKeever, as a way to give back to the amputee community and honor her father, Dan McKeever, a true pioneer in O&P. Chris Casteel saw the potential for amputees and kayaking, and First Paddle was born. The sky is the limit for what we can achieve!

Photos courtesy of OPAF & The First Clinics

More Sports & Recreation Resources