The War Amps has helped Carlyn Graff-Czehryn for most of her life, like they have helped thousands of others. And as the War Amps key tag service celebrates its 75th anniversary, the organization’s good work continues.
The Key Tag Service was launched in 1946 to help veterans with war amputations work for competitive wages while providing Canadians with a valuable service that funds War Amps programs.
That philosophy continues, as people with amputations and disabilities have returned more than 1.5 million sets of lost keys to their owners.
Graff-Czehryn, who lives in Fort Garry, was born missing part of her left hand, and the War Amps reached out to her parents shortly after her birth. When she was four years old she attended seminars with the War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) program, which she remembers as incredibly valuable experiences.
"That’s an opportunity for other CHAMPS to connect," Graff-Czehryn explained. "The kids and the parents see other kids like yourself. It gives the parents a lot of assurance that their kids are going to be OK.
"‘Oh, their child has something similar to mine and they’re OK.’"
Graff-Czehryn was active in many sports and War Amps was with her every step of the way. When she enrolled in swimming lessons, the organization provided her with a swimming prosthetic. When she learned how to ride a bike, they helped fund a prosthetic that helped her maintain her balance.
When she began weightlifting the War Amps helped out, just as they did with basketball, providing different prosthetics so she could hold, catch and dribble the basketball.
The help isn’t limited to sports either, Graff said. War Amps helped fund the cost of a prosthetic so she could play the cello and guitar. The message was clear and it gave her confidence.
"They said ‘Anything that you want to try we can help you do’," Graff-Czehryn said the War Amps told her parents.
"‘We want to help cover that so that your child can do anything they set their minds to.’"
Now 28, Graff-Czehryn, is a personal trainer and credits the War Amps, along with her parents’ encouragement, for helping her become successful in her career. She works with people who need adaptations, along with people with amputations and said her experience growing up has made her better at her job.
"I’ve taken that into every single aspect of my life," Graff-Czehryn said.
"The War Amps is an absolutely incredible program and they are there to help anyone who needs it," Graff-Czehryn concluded.
"If you have a child who was born without a limb or who has lost it for any reason, reach out and contact them. It is the most helpful organization."
Each War Amps key tag has a confidentially coded number. If you find a set of keys with the tag, call the toll-free number on the back of the tag or place them in any mailbox in Canada, and The War Amps will return them by courier, free of charge.
Community correspondent - East Kildonan
Tony Zerucha is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org