Not many of us get a second chance. I did. I find my obligation now is, at the very least, to impart to other amputees the ease with which I find wearing a prosthesis.
In 2007, I met Amy Palmiero-Winters, mother of two, elite athlete, founder of the One Step Ahead Foundation and also an amputee. We met through our prosthetist Erik Schaffer. His talent, compassion, and dedication to creating the best prosthetics brought us together. Before Amy's accident she was passionate about running and riding motorcycles. One day while off from college she was riding her motorcycle and got hit by a car. She would not allow doctors to amputate her limb because of her passion for running. It was when Amy's friend said to her, "It's only a leg. It's not who you are," that Amy courageously amputated her leg. What truthful words her friend spoke. Today, Amy is an award winning renowned athlete.
With Amy, I found someone with the same perspective and attitude as myself, with the drive and passion to help other children gain the confidence to overcome any obstacle and follow their dreams. Although different, Amy and I were coming together for the same goal: making a difference in the lives of children with limb loss. Children who often pull away from fitness, socializing and living life to the fullest due to amputations.
While Amy spearheaded the physical fitness and athletic part of One Step Ahead, I would help children and teens navigate the emotional and social bumps they would endure. Amy was the athletic role model, while I was the Auntie Mame type.
Some of the children you see in this episode are Victoria, Tara, Jake, and James. They were just a few of the children I have had the opportunity to work with and watch grow through the experiences the foundation has given them.
Victoria is a beautiful 18-year-old girl setting out on her first year of college who lost her leg above the knee at birth when delivery for her and her twin sister became complicated. For Victoria, creating a cosmetic prosthesis with an adjustable ankle is a main focus for her.
Tara is an eight-year-old little girl full of fire and never ending energy. She was born with a heart defect and due to complications had her leg amputated when she was only months old. Tara is full of life and as an active young girl wants to play in the sand and run in the ocean waves. A swimming leg certainly is helpful.
James, a 13-month-old twin with such kind sweet eyes, only wants his Nemo patterned prosthesis back on so he can chase after his brother.
Jake is a 10-year-old twin who lost both legs above the knee at birth. Jake has courage, determination, and the willingness to try everything. For the first time in 10 years Jake was able to run with custom-made running prosthetics fabricated by Erik Schaffer. If that scene touched your heart this week, you get it.
Another piece of the One Step Ahead foundation is raising funds for prosthetic limbs. Insurance companies are so very different with-in their policy guidelines. Prosthetics sometimes are not seen as a medical necessity, therefore insurance does not always pay for them. Some allow for one per lifetime, some allow based upon medical necessity, some provide one per year, some do not cover prosthetics at all. Erik Schaffer has created a team focused on helping educate and fight for the patients rights and futures. Depending on the type of prosthesis and components they can have, price tags range from $25,000 to $100,000 and beyond.
Most children need a new prosthetic one to two times per year depending upon their speed of growth and activity levels. One Step Ahead raises money for children who need prosthetics that insurance won't pay for. It is a god given right to run as a child. If running legs are what's needed, we try to make them available for kids who cannot afford them. Teenage girls should be able to wear high heels if they choose. Teen years are a formative time where self esteem and confidence are built. Whatever the need: athletic environments, cosmetically pretty limbs, running legs, skiing legs, or swimming limbs -- the money raised with One Step Ahead helps children and teens to receive them.
Our goal is to help disadvantaged children become advantaged and give them the experiences to help better define themselves, before allowing anyone to define them., as well as to create a stronger sense of self confidence that cannot be taken away. We want them to grow to be strong, happy, and to learn that when they reach their limit they can dig deep and give more!
I thank Bravo for capturing and viewing what has always been important to me and our community. I could never have reached a fraction of the amputees and the physically challenged that I do without this show and its viewers. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Also thanks so much to SoulCycle and Stacey Griffith for donating their space and time to One Step Ahead.
For more information on One step Ahead and to make donations, go to OneStepAheadFoundation.org