One-armed wonder: Calgary teen overcomes physical limitations to play hockey thanks to CHAMP program
Despite being an amputee, 16-year-old Gavin Wishlow can now comfortably hold a hockey stick with his left arm, thanks to a device provided by the War Amps.
Gavin Wishlow is able to hold a hockey stick with a device created by the CHAMP program. // Submitted
Who says you need two arms to play hockey? 16-year-old Gavin Wishlow has not let being born a left-arm amputee stop him from staying active.
Wishlow has shown remarkable resilience and determination to overcome his physical limitations and has not allowed his condition to hinder his progress in life.
“For me, it's all I've ever known, so I feel like my experience has been that of a pretty typical kid,” Wishlow says.
“I've had to find different ways of doing things for certain activities, like tying shoe laces, cutting my fingernails, playing baseball, but I've always managed to either find a way, or get a device that helps me.”
In 1918, veterans who returned home from the First and Second World Wars as amputees created The War Amps in order to share their stories and help other amputees across the country.
Almost 60 years later, the War Amps recognized a need to help children with missing limbs live their best lives and created the Child Amputee (CHAMP) program.
“My parents first heard about it when I was really young, probably around two years old. So, as far as I can remember, CHAMP has always been there helping and supporting me,” Wishlow says.
Six months ago, with the help of the CHAMP program, Wishlow was fitted with a special device that allows him to hold onto a hockey stick.
CHAMP made Wishlow a quick release arm prosthetic that he is able to connect with a variety of attachments.
“The hockey attachment is pretty simple and is made of a flexible rubber that fits over the top end of my stick. It allows me to have pretty decent control over my stick and puck,” Wishlow says.
Before receiving the device, Wishlow had to come up with alternative methods to hold his hockey stick in order to play the game.
Gavin Wishlow holding a hockey stick without the device from the CHAMP program.
“I was makeshifting a solution of tucking the stick between my arm and my side,” Wishlow says.
By being able to control his stick and not have to worry about it slipping around, Wishlow expresses that he is much more comfortable playing now.
While the attachment has helped Wishlow get on the ice, it has also helped in other aspects of his life.
“I have other attachments that connect to my prosthetic that I use to stay active for biking, ATV'ing, baseball, fishing, push-ups, and lots more,” Wishlow says.
The War Amps CHAMP program has been helping Wishlow and his family since he was two years old, so he is filled with gratitude for its support.
“I appreciate the CHAMP program and all they have done for me and continue to do. Their assistance has allowed me to do all these things that I otherwise might never have tried or done well on my own,” Wishlow says.
While Wishlow and other amputees find alternative methods to participate in daily activities, CHAMP helps them live without barriers by providing tools and support.
Wishlow hopes that other young amputees do not let these barriers define them.
“I would tell other young amputees to not be afraid to try new things. Try your best and give it your all. CHAMP will help them to succeed in whatever interests they have,” Wishlow says.
While Wishlow is excited to be able to immerse himself fully into hockey with his new tool, he is also excited to try many different things in life.
“In the future, I want to just continue to stay active in the sports I love, like hockey. And I'd love to try a couple of new sports, maybe lacrosse and rock climbing. I know whatever I decide to try, CHAMP will help get me there,” Wishlow says.
Wishlow's inspiring story shows that with resilience, determination, and the support of others, like the War Amps CHAMP program, amputees can live fulfilling lives and achieve their dreams.