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Golf classic helps kids be kids at camp just for amputees

Jackson DeLude, 4, doesn’t have a problem climbing over furniture, racing toy trucks, or flashing a sly grin whenever his mom catches him. A double amputee with no feet and no bones in his wrists and fingers, nothing seems to stop the little boy.

The Eastern Amputee Golf Association hosted its Eighth annual Buffalo Amputee Golf Classic charity Monday to raise money to help three young amputees – including Jackson – attend a summer camp program exclusively for children with limb loss and their families

Called Camp No Limits, the camp takes place only in ten states, with the closest locations to Buffalo being in Maine and Maryland. The kids the Eastern Amputee Golf group raises money for will go to the camp in Maine.

“They’ve made it possible for us to be able to go,” Jackson’s mother, Ashley DeLude, said.

The charity’s camp scholarship recipients include Jackson; Malachi Stanton, 8; and Brianna Wicks, 19. Lauren Gotsch and Elizabeth Sparza also received partial college scholarships to the Rochester Institute of Technology and Trocaire College, respectively, as children of amputees.

For the parents, the camps are a huge relief.

“(The children) can be themselves, and they don’t have to worry about anything else when they’re there,” she said.

At a previous camp, she said, her son learned important skills including walking up stairs, learning to fall safely and using bicycle handlebars. It was also an opportunity for her to connect with families of other amputees.

Patty Wicks is the mother of another double amputee camper, Brianna, 19. When she first started going to the camps, her mother would push her in a wheelchair. Wicks said that Brianna used to feel powerless because of her disability, but after watching other amputees be self-sufficient, Brianna felt empowered to learn to walk on her own.

Now, the Wicks no longer even own a wheelchair.

Most of the golfers at the tournament were not amputees, but that didn’t stop them from helping the cause. Many of them were also supporting their friend Peter Fenn, the coordinator for the event.

“The main reason we all do this is because we love Peter, and you can’t say no to Peter,” said Kathy Schwinger, a friend of Fenn.

Fenn is a Vietnam War veteran who was also a Professional Golf Association (PGA) player. However, because of multiple health issues including a leg amputation and Parkinson’s disease, Fenn no longer plays golf, but helps others do so.

“It’s a thrill to do what I love doing,” Fenn said.

The tournament has grown in recent years, and now is the largest golf tournament of amputees in the nation, according to committee member Tom Wright.

However, because of Fenn’s declining health, his wife Deborah Fenn said this will probably be the last tournament they host. But she said that she, Peter, and the rest of the Eastern Amputee Golf Association is working to bring a Camp No Limits to Buffalo.