The Institute for Disability Studies on USM’s Gulf Park campus co-hosted Amputee Awareness Day in conjunction with Junior Civitan, a high school group devoted to community service and has a special focus on people with special needs on April 23.
The first half of the event was the Junior Civitan District Meeting, which took place at the facility.
After the meeting, members were ushered outdoors for the Amputee Awareness event cookout, where they sat with amputees and listened to their stories.
Participants also took part in wheelchair obstacle courses and enjoyed grilled hotdogs, chips, cotton candy and other foods.
The Institute for Disability Studies regularly hosts a monthly support group for amputees through a partnership with the Amputee Coalition.
Amputee Awareness Day is celebrated annually in order to raise awareness for amputees and is a major component of the coalition.
“We have a support group that meets here every month,” said Devin Bellman, management assistant for program services at the Institute for Disability Studies. “We only have a few people in our group right now. We’re actually trying to recruit.
“There’s actually quite a large community out there due to the military population, and the VA and the local hospitals and things like that. It’s quite prevalent in the community. We’re just trying to get those community members into our support group. [It’s] another reason why we have this event.”
According to the Amputee Coalition, there are nearly 2 million people living with limb loss in the United States, 185,000 people have an amputation each year, 507 people lose a limb each day and 3.6 million people will be living with limb loss by 2050. Additionally, 36 percent of people living with limb loss experience depression.
Because April is Limb Loss Awareness Month, The Amputee Coalition is hosting numerous ongoing campaigns throughout the month.
Show Your Mettle Day was held on April 23, when the coalition encourages amputees to show off their prosthetic and assistive devices, such as wheelchairs. If they do not use an assistive device, participants share their day to day experiences through pictures tagged with “#ShowYourMettle” on social media platforms.
“The concept is simple,” said a statement on the coalition’s website. “To show your ‘mettle,’ the ability to cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way, by showing your ‘metal’ prosthetic device or wheelchair.”
Saturday’s events also helped members of the Junior Civitan organization understand amputees a little better, as they were given the opportunity to participate in sports like wheelchair basketball.
“[The members had to learn] how to try to get around in a wheelchair and play basketball, or something [else] that the amputees have to do in order to participate in sports,” said Barbara Holyfield, the Junior Civitan Chair for the Magnolia Civitan District. “[They] found that it’s not quite as easy as it might look.”
The Junior Civitan organization is a service group comprised of kids, ages 12 to 18, who partake in school and community clubs and do service projects throughout the community with a special emphasis on working with developmental disability groups.
“What Junior Civitan does is we teach the students to be the leaders that God meant for them to be, plus serve others,” Holyfield said. “[What we’ve discovered] is that when the students give of themselves in a service project without asking for anything in return, they actually get a lot — but it’s in the heart area.”
Holyfield said giving back drives him to continue working with students and seeing what they can accomplish in their communities.