If you've watched any U11 Strathmore Storm hockey games, you may have noticed nine-year-old goalie Colton Sheppard tending the net. During a recent hockey tournament, the Storm were taking on the Columbia Valley Rockies, and Rockies player Bruce Bush caught Colton's eye. It's not obvious at first glance, but both boys share something special: they are both amputees. 

Colton is missing one foot and part of his other, while Bruce is missing a right arm. Despite the challenges, both boys still hit the ice to play hockey. When they met through this game, it was an exciting and special time for both. Colton said it felt really nice to see a fellow amputee on the ice, and Colton's mom Chelsea Sheppard was happy to see her son find this special connection.

"It was phenomenal. We haven't had any CHAMPS seminars for a while, so it's been few and far between when you meet someone who's just just like you in his eyes. So it was nice for him to have that connection," she said.

CHAMPS is the War Amps Child Amputee Program, which focuses on encouraging child amputees (Champs) to develop a positive approach to the challenges they may face as amputees. Both Colton and Bruce are part of the program, and Colton has taken this message to heart, as he doesn't let these challenges get in the way of him loving hockey and sports.

"Colton is a phenomenal skater for what he has and what he works with, and he loves all sports. He'd love to play soccer, he'd love to play lacrosse and all that kind of stuff, but unfortunately, because he doesn't have the forefoot of either foot, he struggles with what we would use as leverage to propel us forward with the front of his foot. Being a goalie allows him to be a part of those sports, but maybe not necessarily need as much speed as some of the other skaters have, or even runners in the other sports," Chelsea said.

Colton has been playing hockey since starting with Timbits, so it's been a part of his life for as long as he can remember! He really loves the sport, so he couldn't narrow down one favourite thing about the game. However, he does really enjoy the time spent with his friends on the team.

"Going to play tournaments, being with my team, meeting new people, playing with my peers," he said.

The fact that Colton is an amputee doesn't stop him from enjoying his life to the fullest. Chelsea explained the CHAMPS program has been particularly great in helping Colton and other kids in a similar position stay positive.

"We have often utilized things like their mentorship as well as the seminars and those are phenomenal places for culture to grow as a champion. That's where some of the best memories are made with other kids with amputations just like him. He has honestly brought home so many great jokes. Colton's a little bit of a jokester, and he likes to tell everybody different ways he lost his leg, and the mentorship through CHAMPS is where he gets 90% of his jokes. He will tell you he is an amputee because a shark has bitten his leg off," Chelsea said.

If you want to support CHAMPS and War Amps, Chelsea said their key tag service is a great way to do so. This service is essentially a tag that is sent to you in the mail you put on your keychain, if lose your key and someone else finds it, they can bring it to a post office or drop it into the mailbox. From there, War Amps will receive the key at their headquarters and then send it to your registered address, which is confidential and only available to War Amps. Not only is this a useful service, but it also employs amputees so it gives them jobs as well.

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