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Camp experience was worth repeating

Malachi Staton enjoys the same things as other preschoolers: The 4-year-old loves to play with his little brother, 3-year-old Elijah, and enjoys attending preschool and seeing all his friends.

But Malachi's entrance into the world was far from routine. Born 16 weeks early, he weighed just 1 pound, 5 ounces, and over the course of his four-month hospital stay had open heart surgery. By the time he left the hospital, for reasons the family cannot discuss, he'd lost five fingers.

His parents, Jennifer Taylor and Albert Staton of Cheektowaga, spent the years since his birth trying to figure out how to help him have as normal a childhood as possible.

"There was no support for parents [of amputees] in Western New York," she told The Buffalo News. In their search for answers, they discovered a place called Camp No Limits in Maine.

"We spent a week in Maine with other amputees last year," she said. "He learned how to fish and caught his first fish there. He learned how to ride a bike."

After returning home from the camp last summer, she wondered why there wasn't a similar camp here.

"Camps like Camp No Limits have been around for years in locations throughout the country, including Maine, Florida and California," she said. "These kids get to build relationships and connect with people just like them."

After extensive research, the Statons created the Little Pebble Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing support and education for amputees and their families in Western New York and the surrounding areas. They are hoping to raise funds to sponsor a similar camp here.

"Our goal this year is to provide young amputees the camping experience of a lifetime," Taylor said. "Camp No Limits focuses on placing young amputees and their families into a genuine camping environment where they will learn their true strengths and potential through activities such as hiking, swimming, canoeing, to just name a few."

The foundation has a series of fundraising events scheduled, including a wine-tasting Saturday, a marathon and a golf tournament. They expect about 200 people to attend the fundraiser, and their goal this year is to raise about $50,000, the amount Taylor said that would be needed to run the camp here.

Saturday's wine-tasting takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. in Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St., and features four wineries and one brewery. Refreshments will be provided by Encore, TGI Fridays and SoHo Burger Bar. There will be a split and silent auction featuring prizes that include two signed Sabres hockey sticks, a Bisons baseball suite for a game, four tickets to the Buffalo Philharmonic with an overnight stay in the Comfort Suites hotel, and a 32-inch flat-screen TV.

For tickets and information, email Taylor at jtaylor@thelittlepebble.org, or call 997-3867.

"I always took the events in his life for granted, and now I am truly realizing what a miracle we have," Taylor said. "Our goal is to reach other parents of amputees and let them try and see a light at the end of the tunnel."

email: hjones@buffnews.com