When the average person thinks about people living with limb loss and limb difference, a type of person usually comes to mind—someone who is White, served in the military, and received a purple heart. While these amputees are heroic and should be celebrated, there are other stories we would like to highlight in this edition of inMotion, themed diversity. We share stories of two community members representing diverse backgrounds who are making a difference in a space with limited representation.
Craig Foster is an avid bike rider, an enthusiastic volunteer, and an inspiration to the people of Arkansas. He became a left below the knee amputee on June 7, 2019. An Arkansas resident, Craig is the vice president of the state’s amputee support group. He is an extrovert who enjoys meeting strangers and describes himself as a “very confident and driven person.” He often finds that he supports the community wherever he goes.
Whether it’s in coffee shops, the street, or the local shopping mall, he meets strangers on their limb loss journey alone, and his conversations result in new friends. While Craig motivates and uplifts people around him, he admits that some days are tough. “Those first few months were kind of difficult. There was depression. It was difficult to get in touch with people, but my family helped me make it through. There are still some tough days, but my community helps ease the burden, which is what I aim to do for others.”
Craig connected with the Amputee Coalition a few months after his surgery, and while the community networking is significant, he noticed there are few people of color. “I was the only minority in the organization, and that didn’t change until two months ago. Now we have seven.” He highlighted the importance of having other people of color to relate to in these community spaces, “Dealing with insurance is different, how you are treated by the medical community is different, and that is something that people of color can relate to.” He desires to be the “familiar face” for other people of color, so they do not feel intimidated or outnumbered. “I just want everyone to know they have someone in their corner.”
Craig is one of our amazing volunteers, and he has decided to take his involvement to the next level. He is working to create a podcast for people living with limb loss and a hotline to talk about special topics in the limb loss and limb difference community.
Robert Rodriguez had his right lower leg amputated at the age of ten months due to fibular hemimelia. He is an accomplished athlete, motivational speaker, husband, and father. There is little that Robert hasn’t done. He has been on the USA Para Soccer team, scored a goal at the Para World Cup, and is currently training as a triathlete with the goal of joining the triathlon team in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Soccer and triathlon aren’t his only athletic feats; he also was featured on the TV series of the American Ninja Warrior Season 9. He hopes to return and be the first amputee ever to make it up the Warp Wall.
While his athletic achievements are truly extraordinary, what sets him apart is being a motivational speaker. In Robert’s words, “Being an amputee is hard to navigate, even harder when you are a minority. Often people like me don’t see themselves represented and are looked over, but I want everyone to know no matter who you are, what your background is, what you like, you are capable of great things. I want to be a leader for the younger generation and show them if I can make it, anyone can. You just hold your head up high and put in the work. If I can encourage someone to be their best self, then I have done my job.” Robert started speaking when he was playing with the AMP1 basketball team in 2013, and since then, he has spoken at CNBC, The Department of Housing, and schools all over the country.
In Roberts’s journey, one thing that always keeps him motivated is his teammates. In his words, “Soccer is just a small aspect of it; the soccer amputee community is a brotherhood. We support each other and have a connection that I will carry for the rest of my life. All the coaches, trainers, and athletes, we have all been through the same thing, so we can relate to one another. The community we have built is something truly special, and I encourage everyone to find their community to help you get through life.”
One teammate that he highlighted was Josh Sundquist, who is also a standup comedian; you may have seen his videos on Tik Tok or Instagram. He credits Josh with encouraging and helping him elevate his public speaking. That is just one of several examples of his community who are willing to advance each other to be the best they can be.
Aside from going to space, Robert has done it all. In addition to all the extracurriculars, he works for Hanger Clinic in New York as a Community Care Coordinator. Robert also had an Emmy‑nominated documentary about his life titled “Able.” With all the accomplishments in his life, he has a lot to be proud of, but what makes him the proudest is being married to his amazing wife Christina and being a father to their two children.
The Amputee Coalition looks forward to seeing what both men accomplish in the coming years!