By John Register
I am excited about the future of the Amputee Coalition. I look at so many nonprofits that did not make it through the pandemic, and yet, we are thriving. The AC has undergone significant changes in 2022, and we are continuing this evolution in 2023.
When I was asked to serve as interim President and CEO of this organization (not Acting), I did not know what I would be stepping into. I only knew, like all of you, I love this organization. I found a home, solace, and community that encouraged me to live life to the fullest as an amputee.
The AC has been instrumental in my growth as an amputee and as a person. I have participated in Capitol Hill Days, Annual Conference, and the Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp. I have cried with new amputees and laughed about amputee noises from ill-fitting prosthetic devices over churros with dear friends. This organization is important because it is the only entity in the United States that focuses solely on the person whose life is transformed by having limb loss or limb difference.
When I look back on 2022, the AC had three major hurdles. The first was to shore up three critical deadlines with our primary funder, the Administration for Community Living (ACL). With a staff of 14, down from 29 full-time employees, we were able to get two significant funding deliverables across the finish line. This now positions the AC to increase programming for 2023. The staff had only 6 weeks to make it happen, and they crushed it.
At the exact same time, the mighty 14 executed two conferences. They exceeded expectations for AC’s signature conference in Palm Desert by getting the total number to 717 attendees. We brought in a third party to evaluate the conference to ensure we eliminated bias and to help us reimagine the AC conference in a new environment moving forward.
The final hurdle in the first 90 days was to execute a youth camp. Though we did not have near the numbers we have had in the past, the quality exceeded expectations, and the evaluations from the campers stated they had a wonderful time.
As we move toward the end of 2022 and into 2023, we are excited to share that we are being innovative by shoring up policies and procedures for each of AC’s program areas. This is critical work. Our dependence on the ACL grant must be balanced with non-discretionary funds. Our strategy is to bring in more donors and sponsors with common goals and ideals of impacting the limb loss and limb difference community. We will lower our dependency on the ACL grant. We are making strides by developing a corporate council to assist us with issues impacting our community such as liner issues.
I am excited about 2023. There is a lot of work to be done. What excites me is that we have a dedicated staff that is ready to serve this community. And, we have a board of directors who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get down to business to set a vision for the AC. You will see a lot of positive momentum happening in 2023.
There is only one goal in my mind now as the Acting CEO: to reach the 2.7 million people living with limb loss and limb difference. When I began in this role, we had a database of about 40,000. If we are going to be effective, all of us should be focused on the 2.7 million. There is no way a staff of 21 people is going to do that alone. We need your help. Whether you are engaged with peer support, advocacy and awareness, events, and programs, or are part of the larger O&P community, we need you to increase our reach by sharing the National Limb Loss Resource Center as the central hub to ensure we capture everyone who needs support.
We have a target to increase our database to 270,000 individuals living with limb loss and limb difference by the end of the year and to 500,000 by the time the conference rolls around.
This means we must be more strategic in how we communicate with each other.
The new way we communicate with each other will be inside of one ecosystem called Higher Logic. This new communication and engagement platform led by Jerrica Thurman and her team will provide ways for you to stay connected with the Coalition year-round. In it, we will be able to engage in online communities for ongoing discussions about the latest issues impacting quality of life, share stories and resources, access a community directory, participate in virtual learning sessions, connect with special interest groups, and much more.
We now have a program person on board, Ashlie White. She and her team are vetting all programs, ensuring we can deliver on what we stated we would do, and looking for strategic collaborations.
We are rolling out the Y.E.P. (Youth Engagement Program) led by Alicia Straughter, Ph.D. We have reimagined the youth program. We are going to expand the involvement of our youth beyond the camp. Our target is 75,000 youth enrolled in this program by the time the 2023 camp arrives.
We are more strategically aligned with both the amputee and disability communities. One of the most exciting goals for 2023 is to work more closely with our sister organizations like the American Association for People with Disabilities and the National Council of Independent Living to ensure our voices are united on Capitol Hill.
Finally, we will continue to have town hall meetings and listening sessions to hear your voice.
As we move toward the future of the AC, you — who are reading this article — are part of the Coalition. You are the one who will help us ensure no amputee is left behind.
Continue to have your voice heard. Continue to inspire your world.