SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- In September, Scotch Plains PBA 87 raised more than $11,000 at its annual charity golf outing, which picks a children's charity of some type. The money generated by the 2019 event is going to the Never Say Never Foundation, a Florida-based organization that helps amputee kids and athletes strive to reach their full potential. The foundation puts on one of the most sought after, fully funded, adaptive sporting camps in the country.
"This year's charity selection was recommended by Officer Mike Baltazar, whose has been helped by the Never Say Never Foundation," said Scotch Plains police detective Brian Hayeck, who runs the annual golf outing.
Baltazar's son, Andrew, age 7, has a relatively rare condition called Fibular hemimelia, a birth defect in which part or all of the fibular bone is missing. It is associated limb length discrepancy, foot deformities, and knee deformities. Sometimes orthopedic experts know that surgery won't help a child to stand or walk properly. A child might have one leg that is a lot shorter than the other or a foot problem that can't be fixed. For these kids, a prosthesis offers the best chance to live an active life, according to KidsHealth.org.
The organization website also says that doctors might amputate part of the foot or leg so the child can wear a prosthesis. Orthotists then fit the child with a prosthetic lower leg.
Such was the case for Andrew, who had his left foot amputated at a young age.
"Andrew wears a full-time prosthetic, but he doesn't let that stop him," said Officer Baltazar in an interview with TAPintoSPF. "Through a Facebook group, we connected with a family in Seattle and found out about the foundation, which puts on different camps for kids with limb differences."
The Never Say Never Foundation was set up by Nick Stilwell and Regas Woods in 2010 after meeting at Nick’s first prosthetic fitting. Regas became an amputee at 2 years old, while Nick was 25 when he lost his legs. They bonded over a desire to help other amputees live life to the fullest. They had a vision to help children and young adults with challenges in their lives to overcome adversity with a positive attitude and to understand that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it.
"Regas, a paralympic runner, was born without legs, and Nick, a paralympic golfer, lost his legs in an accident," Officer Baltazar said. "Once you get to Florida, there is zero expense for the families. They do this through donations like the one that the PBA was able to provide."
Every year at the Pirate Camp, the foundation provides running blades for kids. Thanks to a girl who raised money through an effort called Red, White, and Blades, Andrew got new running blades.
"It's a cool organization,"Officer Baltazar said. "There was nothing up here that is so involved or that does so much for kids. It has been nothing but fun and awesomeness."
For the Scotch Plains police officer, his son is an inspiration.
"Andrew always has a smile on his face. He places travel soccer and plays basketball on a rec camp," Officer Baltazar said. "An adult who just lost their leg, it would be the worst thing in the world for them. For kids, they can be inspirations. Nothing stops them."
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