FREEDOM THROUGH SPORTS

The Amputee Coalition of Canada will take over the national administration of the successful “Freedom through Sport” pilot project developed by the Franklin-Northern Alberta Amputee program, a nonprofit organization operating under the auspices of the University of Alberta, with collaboration from The Steadward Centre for Personal and Physical Achievement at the University of Alberta and the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. Under the “Freedom through Sport” initiative, Active Amputee Clinics are organized around different sporting and recreational activities to increase the awareness of fitness, sport and recreation opportunities for active persons who have undergone amputation. This program is based upon the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (Washington, DC) system of amputee rehabilitation that includes a comprehensive integration of physical fitness, sport and rehabilitation.

The goal of the “Freedom through Sport” program is to empower persons with amputation, and any kind of physical limitation, to use physical fitness, sport and recreational activity to be able to reach their full potential and improve their overall quality of life. The objective of the program is to host recurrent events (named “Active Amputee Clinics”) at various locations throughout Canada at a reduced cost or offered at no charge to persons with limb loss so that they can experience sport and recreation in a supported environment. While many organizations host or offer various adapted sport (wheelchair basketball, racing) and other recreational activities (horseback riding, outdoor adventure) these are often on an “ad hoc” basis or for different populations of skill and ability. Many times persons with amputation are not always informed or aware of these events in their communities. The “Freedom through Sport” initiative aims to provide a holistic rehabilitation and transition model for all amputees, young and old, affording them greater opportunities for increasing their participation in physical fitness, sport and recreation throughout all stages of their recovery, while also broadening their social networks and their level of activity within their community.

Kayaking, rock climbing and swimming are all examples of previous Active Amputee Clinics where it has been observed that once a person is exposed to an activity that has been adapted for their amputation, they can make an informed choice to continue the activity as part of their strategy for a lifetime of physical activity and fitness. For its first event, the Amputee Coalition of Canada will seek to partner with the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing (CADS) to recreate the success of the downhill skiing events that were previously held in Western Canada. Using the tested and successful model, CADS would provide the instructors and the specialized equipment and the Amputee Coalition of Canada would provide the downhill ski tickets as well as inform and encourage their membership to attend. This will allow persons with limb loss to experience the joy and thrill of downhill, tripod and sit skiing. Clinics of this type often provide the window that an individual needs to realize that they can not only continue to participate in activities that they loved prior to amputation, but that they can develop new interests and skills to allow them to continue an active lifestyle.