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FRIENDS & FAMILY: #WeTHRIVE tells community stories.

Empowering Abilities

By Ana-Maria Gutierrez, Senior Communications Manager

 #WeThrive Stories

The Amputee Coalition’s #WeTHRIVE story campaign aims to raise awareness of the resilience, strength, and courage of people living with limb loss and limb difference. This month we share our community members’ stories to EMPOWER others to live their best lives. We want to thank everyone who has shared their personal stories to inspire and educate the entire limb loss and limb difference community.

Gary WeilandGary Weiland

After working as a firefighter for seven years, Gary Weiland experienced some unfortunate events. In 2018, his leg was amputated just below the knee. He decided this tragedy would not end his career and passion for fighting fires. Ten months and six days after amputation, he was back on the full-duty firetruck with no restrictions. Today, Gary is on a mission to show the world that, no matter what happens to you, you can adapt and overcome!

Gary has become a motivational speaker who visits schools, churches, and business conferences to talk about overcoming obstacles. He started a brand called A&O, which stands for “Adapt and Overcome.” He hopes that when people wear the A&O logo they will have the motivation and confidence to tackle any challenge in life.

Last year, Gary competed on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior”! He’s also competed in the UNAA Ninja League, qualifying for the finals twice. Weiland was part of a documentary called “Becoming the Ultimate Ninja,” which is available on Amazon Prime Video. Gary is a Team USA para-athlete on the ParaBobsled/Skeleton Team.

He has also written a children’s book series. The first book, Fischer’s Accident, is about a firefighter injured on the job, and his leg gets amputated. He gets a prosthetic leg, learns how to walk and run, and eventually returns to firefighting.

In the second book, Fischer Finds a Friend, Fischer adopts a three-legged dog and names her Stitch. He soon realizes Stitch can do anything a four-legged dog can do, only faster! The following books in the series detail Fischer and Stitch’s adventures together. In these books, the main characters look slightly different but still live extraordinary lives. His goal is to help normalize differences in the eyes of children. After all, our differences are what make us human.

Ely ColmenaresEly Colmenares

Born with a limb difference in one of her arms, Ely Colmenares knew she was different. However, she never let that deter her.

As she grew up, learning to adapt was a daily part of life. She credits her parents for giving her independence. She proudly shares that she taught herself how to tie her shoes and put her hair up, and she even tried to teach herself how to ride a bike. Her parents offered her unwavering support and made her believe in herself.

When she began school, she realized others were not as kind. As she got older, she developed insecurities because of all the negative things she heard through the years. Then she realized she needed to respect herself and believe in her true self. She gained the confidence to say, “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.”

She was fitted for her first prosthetic arm when she was 16. By then, though, she was already very independent. She went to occupational therapy to learn how to use the arm but never found it helpful. She would wear it only for cosmetic purposes, which was rare. To this day, she still doesn’t wear her prosthesis.

She reminds us all that life is not always easy, but she found a way to embrace it, learn from it, and believe that anything is possible. Ely doesn’t let anything get in her way. Dedicated to educating people around her, Ely advocated helping others understand that we are all human. We all have a purpose and are born to stand out.

Larry WoodLarry Wood

Three years ago, Larry Wood experienced a blood clot in his right leg resulting in amputation. He thought his mobility was at an end, but he was wrong. After he went through a short rehabilitation, doctors fitted him with an above-knee prosthesis. He kept a good attitude and pushed forward.

Larry and his wife love the outdoors. They discovered that, although hiking or exploring on foot was a bit too challenging, they could still enjoy the outdoors together with an ATV (all-terrain vehicle). These ATVs, also known as side-by-sides, have allowed them to ride hundreds of forested trails, mountain roads, and dunes, from coast to coast, at hundreds of ATV parks.

They have met other amputees on their outdoor adventures who are always open to helping each other. ATV companies also make four-seat vehicles so you can take the kids, grandkids, or friends with you. Larry found an outdoor activity that he can still enjoy, and he highly recommends it to couples and families who want to continue their outdoor activities.

To share your #WeTHRIVE story, please visit