The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 05, 2021 1:00 am

No limits for local athlete

Blackhawk student goes after big goals, despite loss of a leg

BLAKE SEBRING | For The Journal Gazette

Losing a leg at age 7 to a developmental disorder would crush most young athletes' dreams, but Cami Wood somehow keeps going faster. Now 11, she's busier than she ever was before her amputation.

Coming off her Wildcat Baseball League season at St. Joe, Cami spent the end of her summer squeezing in as many sports camps as possible, including a softball trip to Wisconsin. Last year, the pandemic meant she had seven such out-of-state trips canceled, so she was really anxious to try new things.

Nothing seems to slow the Blackhawk Christian student down. Before the surgery to remove her left leg, she was in love with volleyball, baseball and basketball, and now she's tried a dozen other sports, including surfing, golf, tennis, track, sitting volleyball, softball, air rifle, swimming and biking and wants to try parasailing, bungee jumping and goalball and is always looking for new ideas. Her goal in high school is to play volleyball, basketball and tennis – all on the varsity.

If anything, she's tried more sports than she might have with two healthy legs. Even before receiving her prosthetic leg on the last day of first grade, she regularly attended Blackhawk Christian basketball camps. When her parents explained why she couldn't participate one year because of her leg problem, coach Marc Davidson invited her to help out as the scorekeeper. Before he could turn around, she was on the court doing most of the dribbling drills on one leg.

Cami's personalty is full of life and giggles, unending determination and a little bit of attitude, and as her father said, happy-go-lucky like she has the world by the tail.

“She's the only one of my (four) kids who could have handled this,” Evan Wood said. “She has the right personality to be able to attack this full force. God was no dummy when he picked her. He knew what He was doing and who He was picking.”

Even with her prosthetic, Cami still attends PFW volleyball camps, and sometimes she goes to practices to play sitting volleyball with the team.

“She's a real hard worker and she has great attitude,” PFW coach Steve Florio said. “She's pretty good at standing volleyball. She operates as if she doesn't have a disability, and we don't treat her like she has one. She has never called attention to herself in that way.”

Cami, he said, is just a normal kid who likes to have fun and be doing something constantly.

Florio has helped set up Cami with members of the United States women's sitting volleyball team which competed in the Paralympics in Tokyo, and the players have kept in touch. One even mentioned she'd love to play with Cami in Los Angeles in 2028.

That might mean she has to pick one sport, however, but that's a few years away.

As her mother, Lisa, said, sometimes her folks have to look away and just allow Cami to try something because she's probably going to do it anyway. She'll also likely succeed. Her orneriness is a good thing for the most part. After losing her leg in February 2018, her entire goal was to be ready to play Wildcat that season in four months.

Three years later, she loves playing second base and even pitching.

“It's just a tad harder when you are batting because you have to keep your hips right, and my hips have always been a little uneven,” Cami said. “I have to turn my feet and use extra force on my stump when I'm hitting. In the field, it's harder to shuffle around. Shuffling to my right is easier, but it's harder when I have to go to my left I always cross my legs. But everything else is the same.”

One time she got hit by a pitch on her prosthetic and that wasn't really so bad.

“The things you learn watching her are that the things you think are limits are not limits,” Evan Wood said. “In Cami's mind, she's not behind, she's still going to win. It's pretty cool to be inspired by your daughter because it literally does not faze her.”

Another example is how she is part of an amputee support group at Turnstone. She's the youngest one attending by like 30 years, but she wants to go every month and can't miss it.

“Cami was born with a bad leg, so her prosthetic is actually better for her, where most people are born with two legs and when they have to get a prosthetic it's worse,” Lisa Wood said. “She has a little different outlook on it.”

And she's willing to prove that her outlook is right even for those who have just lost a leg maybe at an older age.

“Honestly, if you are an amputee, don't give up,” she said.

There's always something different and new to try.

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