Giving Kids Who Have Lost Limbs the Chance to Run, Play and Act Like Kids
The Daily Point of Light Award, created by President George H. W. Bush in 1989, celebrates the power of individuals to spark change and improve the world. In 2014, British Prime Minister David Cameron started the daily award in the U.K. to recognize outstanding individuals who are voluntarily making change in their communities and inspiring others. Today at the Conference on Volunteering and Service in Houston, we honor awardees from the U.S. and the U.K. who are dedicated to serving young amputees around the world.
During a tornado that swept through Indiana in 2012, 37-year-old Stephanie Decker huddled in her basement with her two children. The foundation of her house crumbling, she shielded her kids from the falling debris, unable to avoid a beam that fell and crushed her legs.
Though her children were unharmed, Decker faced cracked ribs, a punctured lung and a double leg amputation.
Through this adversity and thanks to her lifelong love of sports, Decker founded the Stephanie Decker Foundation, which helps child amputees find self-confidence through physical activity. She sends children to the NubAbility Athletics camp in Illinois, which provides athletic training in 10 sports, including soccer, wrestling and baseball, to children missing limbs.
The foundation also raises funds to provide leading prosthetic care to kids who otherwise couldn’t afford it, having sponsored 76 campers so far. In 2014, L’Oréal Paris gave Decker $10,000 to expand her work and named her a Woman of Worth.
“We can teach these kids that they can do anything in the world,” says Decker, now 42. “I’m a firm believer – the only limitations that you have in life are the ones you set on yourself.”
The Hope family of England shares that belief.
In April 2007, the family’s matriarch, Elizabeth Panton, her daughter, Sarah Hope, and Hope’s 2-year-old daughter, Pollyanna, were hit by a double-decker bus in London. Panton was killed. Hope and Pollyanna were injured, but survived.
The toddler, whose right leg was partially amputated, had to undergo 14 surgeries in the six weeks following the accident. But thanks to the top-of-the-line care, she is now able to walk, run and play, leading a normal life.
Hope and her twin sister, Victoria Bacon, soon realized that high-quality surgeons and prosthetics are unavailable to most of the world. Thousands of child amputees face isolation, stigma, infection and immobility as a result.
In 2011 the sisters founded Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope, which raises funds for physiotherapists, prosthetics and rehabilitation, as well as for the psychological help amputees often need.
“Every single child that we give a leg to, who might not have one otherwise, we are giving not just a new lease of life, but you’re giving them a whole life, you’re enabling them to get up, you’re enabling them to walk, to be,” says Hope, 43. “In doing what we’re doing now for these children and trying to drive this charity forward, we are somehow managing to heal ourselves.”
In the past four years, Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope has helped more than 250 young victims of war and accidents who lack access to medical care in such countries as Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Liberia.
The organization also institutes long-term family solutions, such as business mentoring and training, that combat the poverty the children face – often the central cause of their amputations.
“In different parts of the world, these women came to the same conclusion – child amputees can live stronger, healthier lives with the help of volunteers who spend time with them to build their self-confidence,” says Tracy Hoover, Points of Light’s president. “These ordinary citizens of the U.S. and the U.K. give kids who have been through so much the chance to be kids.”
For more information about U.S. Daily Point of Light Award – or to nominate someone you know – please visit www.pointsoflight.org/dailypointoflight. To learn more about the U.K. Points of Light award, please visit the U.K. government website.