PT students, faculty help amputee kids enjoy a day at the beach

About 30 kids from the Camp No Limits program enjoyed a day at the beach Nov. 6 when faculty and students from the USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences (SPTRS) hosted them at Sand Key Park on Clearwater Beach.

Jason Kahle (green USF shirt) and Journey help lead a walk on the beach with Camp No Limits participants.

Camp No Limits ( is a national non-profit camp that brings together children with limb loss between the ages of 3 and 17, parents and siblings to participate in activities, fellowship and network with motivational speakers, paralympic amputee athletes, rehabilitation experts and more.

The Nov. 6 beach event was part of camp participants’ visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Florida’s to see Winter the dolphin ( Winter was rescued in 2005 when her tail was caught in a crab trap. The tail had to be amputated and she now swims with a prosthetic tail fin.

While the campers were near USF and visiting Winter, SPTRS faculty thought the children would like to also meet Journey, a golden retriever who was born without his left front paw and, like Winter, uses a prosthesis, said Jason Kahle, CPO, LPO, a local prosthetist on the faculty with USF SPTRS, coordinator of the event, and Journey’s prosthetist.

“We were given an opportunity to converge those experiences into one day that could benefit amputee children,” Kahle said. “It’s not often you have a chance as a professional to be involved at this level, so close to the kids, and make a difference with the life lessons and tools I have been blessed with. So we decided to meet at Clearwater Beach for a day of fun, guided by a physical therapy theme.”

A couple dozen third-year SPTRS doctoral students volunteered their day and helped design a day of field activities to include the functional gamut that camp participants could compete and cooperate in but ultimately enjoy. Activities included sit-down activities for lower participation levels and rest breaks such as puzzles and a sit-down bean bag toss. At the highest end of the functional spectrum, activities such as team soccer were included. The day culminated in team relays, line dancing and a walk on Clearwater Beach. There were 30 amputee campers, and 15 of their siblings who participated. Most of the kids were under the age of 14.

 “We organized a wide variety of games to accommodate everyone,” Kahle said. “We danced, played relay games, enjoyed the beach and the playground and had a big soccer game where everyone from the kids, to the students, to the counselors, to faculty got to play.”


Enjoying the great outdoors. From left, Jason Kahle and Journey with a camper; Dr. Jason Highsmith works on soccer skills with a camp participant; and DPT student Lenny Gomez referees a competitive soccer game.

Also participating were USF’s William Quillen, PT, PhD, SPTRS director, and Jason Highsmith, PT, DPT, assistant professor.

One special moment from the day stood out for Kahle and will be with him for the rest of his life, he said.
“We were all walking to the beach to have some fun,” he said. “I was walking with an 8-year-old girl named Jane (a very high level amputee) and my amputee dog, Journey. This girl was particularly drawn to Journey and had spent most of the day petting and playing with him. Journey was excited, bouncing, and waging his tail. He was clearly happy about being at the beach with the kids. Jane asked me, ‘How can Journey be so happy?’  I asked her what she meant and she said, ‘He is missing a leg. How can anyone be happy if they are missing a leg?’  I hope I did a good job explaining to her that the two things were not associated. I know I could not have explained it as well if I did not have Journey and the students from SPTRS to show her that there are no limits to being an amputee … especially happiness.” 

USF DPT volunteers: Bottom (left to right) Amanda Young, Arielle Ball, Patricia Chapa, Amy Holz, Racheal Spears, Michelle Bodner, Jessica Concord, Christy Ryan, Melanie Smith. Top (left to right): Lenny Gomez, Dr. Jason Highsmith, Magan McBryar, Kelly Reyes, May Alves, Laura Wallace, Joe Russell, Susan Rodman, Meagan Miraglia and Sarah Wylie. Community Prosthetist Ed Crowe top right.