Edmonton boy is able to be active and athletic with help of prosthetics from The War Amps

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A century after its creation to assist war amputee veterans returning from the First World War, The War Amps is still helping kids like Edmonton’s Alaric Lavallee.

Athletic and active at “eight-and-three-quarters” years old, he loves swimming, baseball and playing on the monkey bars.

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Born with a limb-difference — a left arm that stopped at the elbow — he does sports thanks to The War Amps’ Child Amputee (CHAMP) program.

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He’s proud of the interchangeable prosthetics that adapt as he grows.

“If I didn’t have the baseball attachment, I wouldn’t be able to swing as well, or have as much power,” Lavallee said.

A curved one that looks like an ice cream scoop is for swimming. The black hook he uses on monkey bars to grip the next bar so he can swing across. That and an “Aargh, matey, give me your gold!” cracks his friends up at play, Lavallee said.

When he learns to drive, there’ll be a prosthetic to grip the steering wheel. There’s one for computer keyboarding, although the self-admitted “gamer of the family” is already pretty swift at typing, what with Super Smash Brothers and Minecraft. When he’s finished his homework, that is.

Bright and inquisitive, Lavallee is a “big fan of math” in school, and he’s interested in being an inventor when he grows up.

He’s met friends through CHAMP seminars, events held across the country to bring together child amputees and their families, and to keep them up-to-date on topics ranging from the latest developments in artificial limbs to how to deal with teasing and bullying.

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There’s one thing Lavallee’s parents focus on while raising the bright and active boy.

“Confidence — just teaching confidence, making sure he’s not hiding it,” said mom Tori Barthel. “Making sure he’s got tougher skin.”

Lavallee said he’s grateful for The War Amps. “They’ve helped me get all these prosthetics that help me with my everyday life.”

A peer support program through CHAMP connects new parents to experienced parents. The Jumpstart program provides specialized assistance for children with multiple amputations. With a unique “kids-to-kids” approach, the Playsafe program makes children more aware of dangers in their play environment.

It’s accomplished through public support of The War Amps key tag and address label service.

In the Great War era, The War Amps members were male soldiers. Nurse Madeleine Jaffray (1889 – 1972) was the exception.

Nursing at the front was dangerous, and Jaffray served in a Red Cross ambulance unit in Belgium before sustaining a war wound of her own.

“I was coming out of a covered passage in one of the wards when a bomb fell right in front of me,” she recalled later.
Back then, her resulting amputation made her Canada’s only female war amputee before the association began serving civilians.

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She was the first woman awarded the Croix de Guerre, a military decoration awarded in France. Jaffray continued nursing in Edmonton after the war.

Edmonton centenarian Lloyd Brown lost his right arm to shell shrapnel in October 1944 at a farmhouse in Italy while serving with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. Back home, he joined The War Amps.

Thoughts of regimental friends who never returned home — and the new generation serving in Canada’s Armed Forces — weigh heavy each Remembrance Day.

“I take comfort in knowing that The War Amps and its young members will continue to keep spreading the message long into the future,” Brown wrote in a letter to the editor.

“Their selflessness and courage continue to resonate, and it is our duty to ensure that their legacy endures,” he wrote.

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