News / Halifax

'Sky's the limit': Halifax-area amputee excels thanks to helping hand

Emily Gerhardt, 17, of Upper Tantallon doesn't let not having a left hand stop her from being an accomplished student and figureskater.

Figure skater Emily Gerhardt of Upper Tantallon was able to get a new prosthetic hand thanks to the War Amps.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Figure skater Emily Gerhardt of Upper Tantallon was able to get a new prosthetic hand thanks to the War Amps.

Emily Gerhardt was born missing her left hand, but that hasn’t stopped her from living life to the fullest.

The 17-year-old Upper Tantallon resident is both a dedicated Grade 12 student at Sir John A. Macdonald High School and an athlete. She recently placed first in two categories for her age group at Nova Scotia’s figure skating provincial championships.

Gerhardt’s love of skating came from her parents; they helped her step onto the ice at a young age and she hasn’t stopped since.

“I’ve always just loved it,” Gerhardt said Tuesday at the rink that serves as her home away from home, the St. Margaret’s Centre.

Gerhardt was given a prosthetic arm through The War Amps Child Amputee program, also called CHAMP, which is celebrating 70 years of returning lost keys to their owners.

This year’s donation-based key tags will be mailed out to Nova Scotians this week.

CHAMP aims to provide every child amputee in Canada with limbs for sports and other recreational activities. These limbs cost thousands of dollars, and are not covered by any provincial program.  

That means without the War Amps, a lot of kids would never get the chance to just be a kid, said James Jordan, a spokesperson for War Amps.

“No children in our program will ever have to cover the cost of expensive artificial limbs just so they can keep up with their friends and live a normal, active life,” Jordan said by phone Tuesday.

Gerhardt was given her first recreational limb through the program five years ago, and it has allowed her to take her figure skating to the next level.

“At first it was mainly for keeping my arm protected while I was skating, but as I got better it became more about balance,” she said.

 “It’s what caused me to be able to get better.”

On top of providing recreational limbs for child amputees, The War Amps also has CHAMP seminars. The seminars are yearly gatherings for amputees and their families, where they can go and meet other amputees, and learn that despite the fact they are missing limbs, anything is possible.

“I’ve been going every year; they have always supported me and made me feel welcome,” said Gerhardt.

Gerhardt is now a junior councillor at the seminars. As a junior councillor, she uses her experiences as an amputee to help younger amputees become more comfortable with their bodies.

“It’s a way for people to just get to know each other and learn from different experiences,” she said.

The seminars have a huge impact on young amputees, helping them gain confidence and give them the courage to chase their dreams, Jordan explained.

“They have allowed me to pursue whatever I want to do and not to feel that I have any limitations,” Gerhardt said.

“Sky's the limit,” she said.  

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