JENNIFER MATTOS WHEALY IS A BELOW-KNEE AMPUTEE WHO HAS VOLUNTEERED WITH CAMP NO LIMITS (CNL) FOR ABOUT FIVE YEARS. SHE PUT ON A BOWLING FUNDRAISER THIS YEAR TO HELP SEND THREE KIDS TO CAMP. FOLLOWING IS OUR CONVERSATION WITH MATTOS WHEALY.
HOW DID YOU BECOME AN AMPUTEE?
In 2013, following several unsuccessful ankle surgeries and a nonunion fusion, I chose to have my left leg amputated so I did not have to live in a wheelchair any longer. Although being an amputee also has had its challenges, it’s been such a gift to get to know so many amazing people in the community and live life to its fullest again.
WHY DID YOU START VOLUNTEERING WITH CNL?
I looked up volunteer opportunities before I even had my leg amputated actually. I knew I would need a network if I was going to be able to get through the change mentally and physically, and CNL was such a positive foundation that really empowered its campers to live up to its name “No Limits.”
WHAT MADE YOU THINK ABOUT A BOWLING FUNDRAISER?
Honestly, I’m a large child, and I wanted to do something fun that the kids could also participate in. The City of Flagstaff is amazing, and many people donated to the raffle in some way or another. Starlite Lanes was great and put on fun cosmic bowling for everyone with lights and music. The best part was the costume contest—people really went all out for it. I can’t wait to see what people come up with next year. It’s amazing how trophies motivate folks!
DO YOU THINK YOU’LL DO MORE FUNDRAISERS?
I’ll absolutely do this annually. I loved the bowling, and the kids had so much fun. It’s something that they can help with, which makes it great because they can participate in raising the funds for their camp experience. It makes them feel so good to be a part of the process. You should see our kiddos sell raffle tickets.
Later this year, though, I’d love to try something different and fun for the adults and raise the bar a little. I’m thinking adult homecoming.
I usually try to send at least one kid to camp a year. This year, I wanted to up my game. Now that campers know I’m doing this annually, I have a lot of work to do.
WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF DOING THIS?
Oh, my goodness, what don’t I get out of camp! Honestly, go to www.nolimitsfoundation.org and watch a brief video, and you’ll be hooked. It is seeing some of the kindest people in the world come together to help each other be our best selves. It’s inspirational to see children who could not put up their hair with one hand or run at the beginning of camp and then after 48 hours have the confidence and tools to do it. It’s the smiles on the parents’ faces because their child, who usually never leaves their side, has been running around with friends just like them all weekend. I wish we could bottle Camp No Limits’ energy and share it with the world. To me, camp is everything.
IMAGE: Mattos Whealy (third from left) takes a break from a physical therapy session with campers at Camp No Limits (CNL). Image courtesy of CNL.