Elijah Belanger is nine years old, loves soccer and swimming, has a lot of friends and was born a right hand amputee.
Recently he went to Calgary for the War Amps Western Child Amputee CHAMP Seminar which brings together young amputees from western provinces.
“It means a lot to me to know other kids who are like me, because in Lloyd there’s not that many,” says Elijah.
“It is a whole weekend filled with lots of fun activities, lots of learning, lots of experiences in just talking an discussing with other parents. It’s a great opportunity to network with other parents and seeing all the kids in action and meeting each other. Even if they’re just friends for the weekend and don’t see each other until the following year at the next seminar or the following couple years, that’s not what is important, it’s just that they’ve connected for the weekend and learned from each other,” says Elijah’s mom Danette Belanger.
The CHAMP Program provides Elijah with financial assistance for artificial limbs and recreational devices.
“It does mean a lot that they pay for what I get to help me swim, and swimming is one of my favourite sports,” says Elijah.
Although things can be tougher for Elijah, he says he has been able to find out how to live a normal life.
“[I get] a lot of questions, sometimes stares but lots of times I just answer the questions or my friends defend me or answer them for me. Otherwise it’s been really easy, I’ve been able to find out how to do things.”
“Nothing ever slows him down, nothing ever stops him. Sometimes it’s just a matter of figuring out how to do things, it might be a little more challenging but just in a different way but at the end it’s always the success that’s important and what counts,” says Danette.
While the Champs program does help financially, it has also provided a community.
“What it means to me is to have a whole other family, that is there to support and to help and to kind of guide us through all these different stages of life and to celebrate successes we’ve had and to help us through challenges we face,” says Danette.
Elijah’s mom adds, “it has opened a whole other world that we would have never known anything about. Now that we have our son, we have met so many wonderful people and experienced so many things that are all brand new to us. I think from him we have learned that it doesn’t matter how you do something, it’s that you’re able to do it and to be proud of yourself.”