Chemainus’s own Darevin Curnow is the perfect poster boy for the War Amps CHAMP program.
He’s a bright and bubbly, energetic child who’s turning eight on Aug. 25. On the surface, you’d never know there was anything different about him.
But Curnow was just two and a half years old when he lost most of his left foot in a lawn mower accident while living in East Sooke before coming to Chemainus. It still hasn’t prevented him from doing most things you’d expect from a boy his age.
The War Amps Child Amputee Program has helped instill confidence in him and supplied the necessary prosthetics so he can lead as close to a normal life as possible. The great benefits he’s received from the organization are being repaid through Curnow’s ambition as the National Safety Ambassador for the War Amps in 2017.
“Each year we pick a different child, usually in a younger age group,” explained Lorraine Cornelius, War Amps executive director of public awareness.
“That’s the age group we’re trying to reach.”
Cornelius added all of the CHAMP kids are safety ambassadors in some regard. “It’s really a message of kids to kids,” she pointed out.
Curnow has done a series of public service announcements in recent weeks. Speaking from personal experience makes his message all the more poignant.
“Lawn mowers is such a common accident,” Cornelius indicated. “It’s hard to get that through to people.”
After Curnow’s accident, he spent six weeks in Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, according to dad Mark.
“They were able to save his ankle and give him some creative surgery,” he added.
“The only part I remember was the lawn mower part,” said Darevin. His left leg was also broken in the accident. The same leg was broken when he was five on a trampoline at a friend’s place.
“He’s extremely active,” noted Mark.
“He’s pretty tough. A lady said, ‘I’ve seen grown men literally screaming.’”
The War Amps came to Chemainus July 17 and 18 to film Darevin at this home for a PLAYSAFE public service announcement and a two-minute video profile. In the video, he tells his story about the lawn mower accident and warns children to spot the danger before they play.
The productions will be released next spring and broadcast on TV as well as being shared on social media and shown in school classrooms.
As part of a connection dating back more than 35 years, the Canadian Football League has teamed up with the War Amps to pass on the PLAYSAFE message. The annual CFL PLAYSAFE public service announcement was filmed in Vancouver July 20, the day before the B.C. Lions’ football game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers where Curnow was the guest of honour.
It was the Lions’ turn to be the CFL representatives this year and “ideally we’d like to have a CHAMP from the local area,” said Cornelius.
Thus, the connection was made between Curnow and Lions’ quarterback Travis Lulay and running back Jeremiah Johnson.
“Darevin and the players had a lot of fun filming the PSA, while also spreading a powerful message that will reach thousands of people across the country,” said Rob Larman, War Amps’ PLAYSAFE/DRIVESAFE director.
“He just enjoyed the whole experience,” noted Cornelius.
The PSA will air during CFL games on TSN starting on Thanksgiving weekend and continuing through the playoffs until the Grey Cup game in November.
It will also be shown on other stations and networks.
Curnow was also given a special privilege before the Lions-Bombers game.
“He got to meet the new commissioner of the CFL (Randy Ambrosie) and do the coin toss for the game,” noted Mark. “He won the coin toss for B.C.”
“Cheering them on, but very loudly,” said Darevin was his special memory of the game.
All of this celebrity status does come at a cost, however.
“After the weekend, I was exhausted from it,” grinned Darevin through the gap of a missing front baby tooth.
In September, Darevin will be going into Grade 3 at St. Joseph’s School. He’s looking forward to channeling his energy back into the classroom and skating season again soon with the Fuller Lake Skating Club.
“The first year he was up there they didn’t even realize he had a prosthetic,” noted Mark.
Darevin has another brother and a sister in skating. Last year, he won the Canskate Achievement Award for the club.
It’s all part of his busy lifestyle. “I always like being crazy and normal,” he reasons.
There will be some growing pains in the future for Darevin.
“We are booked in for another operation probably next year,” explained Mark. “They’re going to shorten his leg and give him a full prosthetic.”
Everyone with the War Amps and B.C. Lions who’ve come to know Darevin feels they’re richer for the experience.
“He’s adapted so well and believes so strongly in his message,” said Cornelius.
Preventing other accidents of a similar nature is now the mission. Never being near lawn mowers is a key message for Darevin and other child amputees because accidents can happen in a split second.
With children, accidents usually occur from falling off a riding lawn mower, being run over because the operator does not see them, being too young to operate the machine or being hit by debris.
“It could be anyone — family, a neighbour, whatever,” said Cornelius. “Kids just need to stay away. That’s really the message.”