Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Local amputee support group, Limbs Without Limits, was granted 501(c)3 non-profit status last Wednesday.
The organization was founded by husband and wife duo Jeff and Emily Nolan in March of this year as a way to support and encourage the amputated or injured to have an active and healthy lifestyle.
The Nolans were inspired to create the group when Jeff Nolan’s lower left leg was amputated in 2010. The victim of a workplace accident, Nolan chose to have his leg amputated after a 3,000 lb. piece of metal fell on him and more than a dozen surgeries could not fully repair it.
Emily Nolan, the executive director of Limbs Without Limits, explained, “at that point our son was six months old and Jeff could barely even walk to the mailbox without being in excruciating pain, so he finally just said to take it off.”
She said the Nolans were offered multiple resources during their amputation experience and are hoping to offer a different kind of support to the amputated, injured and their loved ones.
“There is life after amputation and injury,” Jeff Nolan, president, said.
The group, which meets from 6 – 8 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month in the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital cafeteria, focuses on creating an athletic atmosphere in addition to a supportive one.
Each meeting includes dinner, discussion of goals and a variety of games or activities. They also bring three hand cycles to each meeting to get the members exercising.
“It’s a support group but more energetic,” Emily Nolan said. “It’s nice to get them moving.”
Jeff Nolan continued, stating that Limbs Without Limits is driven by a personal connection.
“Our main goal is to help the individual,” he said. “We talk with them, we have them come to support group meetings and we encourage them to participate in some of our races.”
He said the group has about nine consistently attending members so far, although they have had about 25 different people attend total.
Ricky Miller, an amputee, has been coming to Limbs Without Limits meetings since the beginning.
“Being involved with [Limbs Without Limits] has opened my horizons. Before I was just focused on me and my hunting and my fishing, but I started to see how I inspired other people,” he said. “When I ran the [Ravenel] bridge it was pretty intimidating, but when people were running up beside me saying ‘I didn’t quit because of you’ or ‘I’ve been using you to pace myself,’ it kind of makes your heart warm.”
He said these kinds of experiences have helped him learn to encourage and assist others.
“The sky is the limit for any situation,” he said. “Whether you’re an amputee or paralyzed, you can do it. It’s the moment that you say you can’t do something that you won’t.”
While the founders are enthusiastic about expanding the group, it’s been a slow start without their non-profit certification. Donors are often reluctant to give to organizations that are not IRS 501(c)3 certified because the donations cannot be written off as tax deductible.
Because of this, the Nolans have been funding all of their operations since the founding of Limbs Without Limits in March with their personal funds.
But with their new, official non-profit status, things are looking up for Limbs Without Limits.
“I think we’ve been a huge success so far, especially with such limited resources. … If we have one person come [to a meeting] and that person leaves with a smile or a better understanding of what they can accomplish, then we have done our jobs,” Emily Nolan said. “We don’t need hundreds of people or front page articles. Even if we just help one person we’ve done our job.”
“Although we would love to have hundreds,” she added with a laugh.
Miller agreed the group has nowhere to go but up.
“They’re breaking down barriers and opening the door wide enough for amputees to be comfortable,” he said. “I want to see everybody come and say ‘I want to go golfing’ and Jeff can hook you up. I want to see that smile.”