They say everyone loves a parade.
Aimee Brennan, 17, of Surrey has participated in 33 of them. She’s a Champ and long-time PLAYSAFE ambassador with the War Amps, which was established on Sept. 23, 1918 with the Amputation Club of British Columbia’s inaugural meeting, to help those missing limbs advocate for one another and otherwise persevere.
“I was born missing my left arm below the elbow,” the Fleetwood resident explains. “My parents were told by doctors before I was born, through an ultrasound, that I was going to be missing my arm and so pretty much right away my parents started looking into amputees and they were told about the War Amps and so I’ve been involved in some way with the War Amps since I was born – before I was born. They’ve always been there, through everything.”
War Amps helps not only those who’ve lost a limb in a war, as its name suggests, but all adult and child amputees the not-for-profit organization can, be it through providing financial assistance for artificial limbs, encouragement and other support.
The CHAMP program, which Brennan is involved in, serves amputee children in Canada up to the age of 18. CHAMP stands for Child Amputee Program. PLAYSAFE is a “kids-to-kids” type of program aimed at making all children more aware of dangers present in their playing environment. They have parade floats to spread the message.
“I’ve actually done 33 parades. And so now that I’m older, I get to walk beside the float, so I walk beside the kids who are sitting on the float and we get to spread the message of playing safe and that’s just one of the biggest things the Champs, and the ambassadors –child amputees – that’s one really big message that we try to spread,” Brennan says. “To play safe, because being an amputee is pretty awesome but it is a lot better if people keep their limbs, of course.”
The Grade 12 French immersion student at Kwantlen Park Secondary recently paraded at the Hyack Festival in New Westminster.
She will be graduating from Grade 12 this month. What are her plans?
“I’m going to study political science at SFU and actually want to become a lawyer and I want to specialize in human rights, specifically rights of people with disabilities.”
Meantime, Brennan is mentoring younger kids “all the time.
“I think I’m doing it without even realizing it. Every year we have the War Amps seminar and that’s about a three day weekend, and all the Champs in B.C. come together and we have discussions, and it’s really just a place where all the amputees get to come together and talk, and just know that they’re not alone.”
Brennan knows people who have lost limbs through accidents, and “medical reasons,” and while adapting to their new reality “has been hard to them, they’ve said to me that just having the War Amps and knowing that if they ever have a problem that they have those connections, they have friends that are going through the exact same thing all the time just like them, and that really helps them accept the fact that now they’re amputees, and overcoming anything.”
Brennan, at her young age, is living proof of that. She was a competitive swimmer for seven years.
“I had to stop this year though because of an injury, but I was ranked 26th in the world in one of my events, the 100-metre butterfly. So that was a pretty big part of my life, it was about 26 hours a week in the pool, so it was a pretty big part of who I am. But now I’m just getting though high school, moving on to that next chapter.”