An 11-year-old girl who lost her leg in an accident when she was a toddler is not the same girl was five days ago. On Friday, she ran the bases.
That’s because of a week spent with the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team, a group of veterans and active-duty military personnel whose missing limbs don’t prevent from competing on the field.
Chloe Schmidt is one of the young participants -- who come from all over the country -- at a weeklong camp hosted by the team in Mission Viejo.
“It’s really a life-changing experience,” Schmidt said. “They can teach me how to run, or how to do things I didn’t know I could do, and do them better too.”
As a little girl, Schmidt slip under a lawnmower her father was using, and he didn't see her. The Maryland girl's left leg was amputated.
Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team, a Virginia-based 501(c)3 nonprofit, has a mission to educate and inspire, in addition to supporting its team members. The team plays against able-bodied opponents across the country in exhibition teams.
The organization’s Kids Camp lets team members show children between 8 and 12 who were born without a limb or went through an amputation how they can excel athletically. The week in Mission Viejo marks the camp's third incarnation since the first camp in Florida in 2013, according to the team's website.
“Every kid has their own story, and every kid’s overcome so much,” said team member Sgt. Chris Hutton.
Hutton survived two tours in Iraq, but lost his leg to a drunk driver after returning home. He said he could not fathom growing up missing a limb.
"It makes the hair stand on my arms, just how they get through life," Hutton said.
Camp founder Susan Rodio said the adult team members benefit too.
“They healed from their injuries, but this gave them a purpose again,” Rodio said.
On Friday evening, the campers will go to head to head for a game that marks the conclusion of the week: Thunder versus Lightning.
On June 20, the adult team heads to Akron, Ohio, for a double-header.