For 18-year-old Olivia Book, dance is the future, but her love for dance and sport did not come without its challenges.
Book, from Grimsby, was born without most of her right arm. Though she has no recollection of it, Book says she was as young as five months old when she got her first prosthetic, an arm attachment that allowed her to crawl around the house.
The prosthetic was provided by the Wars Amps, a non-profit organization that helps amputees across Canada, with surgeries, prosthetics and emotional support for both adult and children amputees.
For Book, her involvement started young and has been lifelong.
“For some kids that can be sort of daunting or lonely,” Book said. She said she was around five or six years old when she became aware of her amputation but eventually embraced it. She credited the support of the War Amps and her family as the source of her confidence.
Athletics has always been part of her life, she said. A soccer player, a ballet dancer and jump-roper, as a child she was even part of a jump-rope club called the Lincoln Leapers, with the help of a specialized jump rope prosthetic attachment.
“People aren’t used to seeing people with amputations in public, so I was just trying to break the norm to show that I was doing everything I hoped to do,” she said.
In her early teens, Book became a junior counsellor for the War Amps child amputee program, known as CHAMP. She said she saw herself as a role model for the children and her message to them was to find people to lean on for support, and that with enough focus and hard work, they can do anything.
“Find those people that they can reach out to but then also, you have to learn, like I did, just to go for it.”
Book will be attending a ballet dance apprenticeship in Utah in the coming fall.
Jamie Lunn is a public awareness officer for the War Amps. She said the War Amps' ability to support those living with amputations like Book, comes from donations from the public in support of programs like its Key Tag service.
Now in its 75th year, the War Amps Key Tag service provides a confidentiality coded key tag to attach to a set of keys and if the keys are lost and then placed in any mailbox in the country, or a phone call is made to the toll free number on the tag, the keys will be returned to the registered owner.
She said although a big part of the organization’s activities are in person and social, for the time being they have adjusted to virtual platforms to keep in touch with members and provide online classes and seminars.
Lunn herself was born without her right arm as well and has been a member of the CHAMP and War Amps program for her entire life. She said she hopes to see continued support for the organization “so that we, as amputees, can continue to be a part of society.”
Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News