It’s what’s left that counts

This was the motto of Cliff Chadderton, who died a week ago at the age of 94.  In October of 1944 Cliff was the commander of a company of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles as the Canadian army began the push to liberate Belgium and Holland from the Nazis.   He was injured for the second time in the war, this time losing his right leg below the knee.  Lying on his hospital bed, he decided he didn’t really need that leg; life is about what you have, not what you don’t have.

He returned to Canada, got around on crutches for awhile, then got an artificial leg.  He married and raised a family.  He joined the War Amps of Canada upon returning to Canada in 1944.  In 1965 he became the executive secretary of that organisation, and for the following 44 years was their well-known public face.  He retired in 2009 at the age of 90.

The War Amputations of Canada was founded in 1918 by First World War veterans who had lost limbs in that combat.  It has always been an organisation of amputees helping amputees and is known across Canada as simply the War Amps.

Under Cliff Chadderton’s leadership, the War Amps made a transition from an association concerned with amputees who were war veterans to a national charity seeking to help all amputees.  The CHAMPS program, short for child amputees, provides training and peer support to children who have lost limbs due to accidents, plus financial assistance for artificial limbs.  They also provide computers and adaptive devices for using them to child amputees to aid in their education and communication.

The best-known part of the War Amps work is their key tag program.  Every year they send out free numbered key tags to all adult Canadians.  If one of those tags is attached to a key ring and the owner loses those keys, the finder has only to drop them in the nearest mail box and Canada Post will return them to the War Amps, who will return them by courier to the owner.  The finder can also call the number on the back of the key tag and the War Amps will send a courier to pick them up and return them to the owner.  This toll free number also works in the US if a Canadian loses his keys there.  Over the past 60 years, more than 1,500,000 sets of keys have been returned to their owners through this program.  The key tags are made in a sheltered workshop, providing work for amputees and people with other handicaps.  The link between the number on the key tag and the name of the owner is completely confidential, known only to the War Amps.

This program is also the largest source of funds for the War Amps.  There is no obligation to pay for the key tags, but most of us send donations in appreciation of this service and all the other work done by the War Amps.  The War Amps receive no government funding.

Cliff Chadderton’s example and warm-hearted encouragement to others, young and old, is surely part of what has made Canada a friendlier place for people with handicaps.

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