People often can’t help but smile when they see six-year-old Kamryn Bond lay a wreath with her friend, Shannon Krasowski, 40, at their local Remembrance Day ceremony. Although an unlikely pair, they are both amputees and are part of a legacy that goes back nearly 100 years.
Kamryn is a member, and Shannon a graduate, of The War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program. It was war amputee veterans returning from the First World War who created The War Amps in 1918, its Key Tag service in 1946, and later, the CHAMP Program. Since 1975, thousands of child amputees across Canada have received financial assistance for their artificial limbs through CHAMP and attended regional seminars where they learn about growing up as an amputee.
When Kamryn was 11 months old, both of her legs, right hand, and several fingers on her left hand, were amputated due to a respiratory illness. Shannon’s left leg was amputated when she was 13 years old due to bone cancer.
They met three years ago at their local Remembrance Day ceremony in Grande Prairie, Alberta. That year, Kamryn watched Shannon lay a wreath on behalf of The War Amps Operation Legacy, but ever since, it has been a tradition they share.
While growing up as a Champ, Shannon met many war amputee veterans and heard their first-hand accounts of the devastation of war. “They passed this legacy to us younger amputees and now it’s our turn to share their stories, so that we never forget their sacrifices,” she says.
Although Kamryn is still quite young, her mom, Dale, says it is important for her daughter to lay a wreath on Remembrance Day. “It builds the foundation for her to understand how much our war veterans gave up for our freedom.”
When Shannon was younger, she shared a close bond with one particular war amputee veteran. He gave her a lion statue because he said that she had the courage of a lion. Shannon says, “I have since passed this statue down to Kamryn to recognize her courage, and I hope that one day she will pass it down to another young amputee, who looks up to her.”
According to Shannon though, Kamryn is already a role model to many people. “Kamryn epitomizes what CHAMP is all about. She has such a great attitude and her positivity makes everyone smile. You can’t help but be in a great mood when you’re around her.”
Dale says that because Kamryn and Shannon are both amputees, they share a unique bond. “It’s important for Kamryn to have someone who understands what it’s like to be an amputee, especially as she gets older, because she will have questions that I won’t always know the answers to.”
Dale adds, “We will always be appreciative of the work of the war amputee veterans and the message they have left for young amputees like Kamryn to carry into the future. It is for this reason that she lays a wreath every year in their honour, and will do so for many years to come.”