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CHAMP program helps keep rock alive

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Connor Nykyforak has been able to rock on thanks to the War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) program.

The 19-year-old East Kildonan resident, who was born without a right hand, receives prosthetics that will hold a pick in place so he can play the guitar or bass.

"I play like any normal person with two hands. The only part I can’t do is the pick," Nykyforak said while demonstrating the prosthetic on an electric guitar. "The picking I do with the help of the prosthetic — the pick is just held in place.

"It’s a normal guitar, it’s just the pick is different."

Nykyforak began playing the guitar about seven years ago and has played consistently up until four months ago, when his prosthetic no longer fit properly. He plans to have it refitted at the Rehabilitation Centre for Children so he can resume playing his favourite songs by hard rock bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Metallica, and AC/DC.

"I liked to listen to music, and thought I’d want to give a shot at an instrument," said Nykyforak, who took music lessons for two years before opting to continue learning on his own. "I couldn’t do drums, really, since it’s a really difficult thing for someone who doesn’t have a right hand, so I thought guitar and bass would be a good idea.

"I’m playing whatever I hear on the radio or find interesting," he added. "If an artist releases a track (I like), I try to play it."

Nykyforak’s plans with music currently only involve playing by himself, but he said he’d consider teaching if he looked to take the next step in music.

He said he’s been consistently supported by the program throughout his lifetime, as he has received prosthetics in order to help him pursue activities like swimming, pellet gun shooting, and skiing.

"Any interest I have, they pretty much have an idea," he said of the Rehabilitation Centre, where the prosthetics are made.

The River East Collegiate grad is currently in his second year of business administration at Red River College, and he hopes to transfer his credits to the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business to pursue an accounting degree upon completion of his RRC coursework. He is eager to complete his studies, as he has found difficulty obtaining part-time employment.

"Employers see someone who doesn’t have their right hand and think ‘I don’t know if I want to hire this guy because I don’t know if he can do all of it, it might be expensive to get this guy set up,’" he said.

In addition to prosthetics, which can run from $500 to $3,000, the CHAMP program has also helped Nykyforak with $3,500 bursaries each year to cover a good portion of his post-secondary expenses. As well, he attended multiple CHAMP conferences when he was a young boy.

"It was really interesting seeing a lot of people similar to me all at once," he said. "That was definitely different from everyday life, going to school."

For more information on the War Amps, visit www.waramps.ca

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