by Suzanne Schreiner & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hey are campers like any others. They canoe and they kayak; they toast marshmallows and sing around the campfire; they make crafts out of pinecones and pebbles. But these campers may have even more fun because they have to work a little harder to produce that pinecone masterpiece or paddle a canoe; the kids at Camp Ability are missing a limb, or part of one, due to injury or birth defect.
The Camp Ability Foundation began in 2004 as a summer camp in Rome, Maine. Carrie Davis, a patient advocate for Hanger Prosthetics, now has brought it to Camp Cross on Lake Coeur d'Alene and hopes to attract 20 to 25 campers and their families this September. Davis says, "The camp is for kids to get together and be themselves and forget about their prostheses." To help them learn how to go about the tasks of daily life, the camp relies on its staff of volunteer physical and occupational therapists, prosthetists, adult amputees, and patient advocates.
Among children, birth defects account for the greatest share of limb loss, with one in every 2,000 babies born missing all or part of a limb. Other causes are accidents and injuries, diabetes, blood clots, staph infections, cancer and tumors. But children with limb loss are still a very small community, Davis points out, which often creates a sense of isolation and lack of awareness of the support that is available.
Davis was born without the part of her left arm below the elbow. Growing up in Spokane, she knew of only one other girl who was also missing a limb. In the schoolyard, she was tagged 'Captain Hook,' so she knows firsthand about the stares and teasing from other kids. She also knows that kids often don't talk to their parents about being different. For that reason, Camp Ability encourages parents to come as well, so they can understand the obstacles as well as what is possible.
Davis herself offers a persuasive vision of what is possible. With the help of adaptive devices, she does everything from water skiing to playing the guitar, from tying her shoes to competing in triathlons. That's the point of Camp Ability, Davis says: "to define who you are by what you have rather than what you don't have."