Limbs for Life Executive Director Debra South with the prothesis of a small child the foundation has helped. Photo by Rose Lane | okcFRIDAY
By Rose Lane
Debra South, the new executive director of the Limbs for Life Foundation, says the great part of the organization is that it provides cures.
Most non-profits fund research, but South said her group is unique in that it can give an immediate new outlook on life for the amputees it helps.
South comes to Limbs for Life with a long-time passion for charitable work. A resident of Oklahoma City since 1971, she has been actively involved in local nonprofits, both as a professional and volunteer for more than 25 years.
She worked in development for Trinity School, the Center for Non-Profits and Southern Nazarene University.
“I have always been interested in that kind of thing,” she said. “Working with nonprofit organizations is a heart thing for me. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
She said she found she was “good at raising money” as a volunteer for the Putnam City Schools Foundation.
“When people tell me ‘no,’ I’m not offended,” South said. “But, you never know until you ask.”
Limbs for Life was founded in 1998 by John Sabolich, an emeritus board member. Prosthesis are very expensive and the degree of insurance coverage varies, South said.
Sabolich saw the need for a foundation to refurbish prosthetic parts and provide funding for amputees. His mission was to provide financial assistance to deserving patients so that they have the opportunity to return to a productive job and normal lifestyle, South said.
Amputees are referred to Limbs for Life for assistance from the prosthetic company, such as Scott Sabolich and the Hanger Orthopedic Group. South said her personal goal is to cut down the list of those waiting for assistance.
Each year, Limbs for Life, provides approximately 230 limbs at no charge to clients and approximately 600 prosthetic components to prosthetists to be used in the construction/fitting of limbs for patients in need.
LFL receives applications from all states and several foreign countries including Kenya, Haiti, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
In April Limbs for Life sent a shipment of 100 limbs to Iraq.
The organization received even more exposure on June 10 when Limbs for Life was featured on an episode of ABC’s “Secret Millionaire,” South said.
Millionaires Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen, cofounders of Anytime Fitness, came to Limbs for Life under the guise of filming a documentary about the organization. They spent one week filming and volunteering. At the end of the week they awarded the organization a check for $100,000.
South said their connection with Limbs for Life did not end then. They continue to support the organization in many ways including giving all of the net proceeds from Runyon’s book, “Working Out Sucks! (And Why It Doesn’t Have To)” to the nonprofit. They are also scheduled to return to Oklahoma City in August to visit and for a book signing.
“The exposure we received from the ‘Secret Millionaire’ allowed the perfect opportunity for more people to learn about our work,” she said. “It seems that amputees and prosthetic clinics knew about us, but there seemed to be a gap in the exposure to the general public.”
“Since the episode aired, we have received checks and inquiries from most of the US states. We are thrilled!”
South said her organization is made of “dedicated people.” The satisfaction, she said, is the joy seen on the face of an amputee who receives a new limb.
“It just warms my heart,” she said. “We’re giving moms and dads the chance to work and buy food for their families.”
“We’re changing lives.”