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Ira Rich surfing

April is Limb Loss Awareness Month! Based on a recent study, there are more than 5.6 million people living with limb loss and limb difference in the United States. Of that ~5.6 million, there are ~2.3 million people with limb loss and ~3.4 million people who were born with their limb difference. And every year, there are approximately 185,000 amputations in the US.

We are honored to support this community through our faith-based retreats. Through the years, we have met so many inspiring overcomers, and we know that each of their stories has a special opportunity to touch the lives of others. As we embark upon Limb Loss Awareness Month, this April we will be sharing many powerful, moving, and inspiring Stories of Hope from some of the remarkable young men and women with limb difference we’ve met over the years at our retreats!

So often, it’s the people that have gone before us that pave the way for our victory. It’s those who have fought for their breakthrough, and walked through the fire to find their healing that fill others with contagious hope. The belief that if God did it for those before, He can do it for me too.

There is one key ingredient in this: community. It’s when one is grounded and planted in community amongst a group of individuals — real, honest, and vulnerable enough — that everything begins to change. It’s where sharing testimonies and telling stories of God working is commonplace, where holding each other accountable and calling out the good and potential in one another is encouraged and expected. And this is exactly what took place at our fourth Forge Retreat in 2023, and what Ira Rich, a first-time attendee, experienced the power of.

Ira Rich with fellow Forge Retreat attendees

There’s no doubt that Ira attending this past October’s retreat in Del Mar was a miracle in and of itself. Ira heard about the Forge Retreat for men with limb difference from his good friend Brett, a Forge attendee in 2022 and leader in 2023. Even though the application was closed, Ira immediately reached out to our team and was able to submit his application within 30 minutes of receiving it. This was just three days before the official start of the Forge retreat. Miraculously after a series of events, a spot opened up for Ira to attend and he hopped on an airplane out of his hometown Orlando, Florida to make it in perfect time. Little did he know what God had in store.

Ira Rich
After losing his right leg below the knee in a lawnmower accident at the young age of 11, Ira found community was hard to come by. It wasn’t until he met Jesus and devoted his life to Him that he started to experience true community, especially as an amputee. That desire to be around other faith-minded amputees was one of the key driving forces for him to come to the retreat, along with the variety of activities woven into the retreat schedule. Ira shared:

“I just felt like God was directing me to go. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I wanted to meet other amputees and do all the activities.”

Whether it was surfing, wakesurfing, jiu-jitsu, gym workouts, or stepping on a ride at a theme park, all the retreat activities were intentionally incorporated into the Forge. More than just being fun, they were opportunities to face challenges, fears, and discomfort head on and discover what they can overcome — especially with the camaraderie of a tribe of men encouraging them to do so.
2023 Forge Retreat attendees

In Proverbs 27:17 it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” This scripture precisely describes what took place at the Forge.

Ira experienced this firsthand as both the sharpener that encourages others and the iron that was sharpened by his peers. Jiu-jitsu, one of Ira’s favorite hobbies and pastimes, was a new activity this year for the Forge. Once at the gym, Ira quickly took on the mantle of coming alongside the other men, encouraging them and showing them the ropes.

Ira Rich and another Forge attendee practicing ju jitsu

Surfing, however, was a different story. He was both excited to try something new, and at the same time, extremely nervous due his fear of the ocean. Yet with professional instructors coaching him and the other attendees who had overcome and learned to surf in retreats prior encouraging him, Ira gave it a shot.

“I’ve never surfed before and I was scared. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. Getting on the board was breathtaking honestly. It was an amazing feeling… like wow I’m doing this!”

Ira Rich surfing

It’s these types of moments where an overcoming spirit is brought to life. When the truth finally sinks in that anything is possible with Christ. And where a door is opened to real, lifegiving friendships which are then taken to the next level during the group sessions.

Across the board, one of the most mentioned highlights for the men, including Ira, was the group sessions. With a number of the attendees returning in leadership roles at the Forge in 2023, their experience set the tone for these times of discussion and sharing. The leaders paved the way for more depth and openness when it came to talking about their struggles as amputees and their faith. These richer conversations led to the forging of vision and goals, both as a group and individuals, the strengthening of friendship, and the drive to push their brothers in arms toward greatness.

Forge attendees and leaders in a group session around a fire

It was the power of real, authentic community at work:

“The moment that impacted me at the Forge was after dinner sitting around the campfire hearing stories of the other men and how God impacted their life. God works in ways you will never understand. He sends you places that you would never imagine and puts people in your life for a reason. The overall experience was so powerful, words can’t describe the feeling I had there! Just meeting so many amazing people and having fun in the process of surrounding myself with God-like people.”

Ira is a product of the growth that’s happened at the Forge. The work the men in past years have done and overcome in their own lives is now empowering other men to find the same healing and growth themselves.

Make Incredible Things Happen

Help further our mission and programs that support young people living with limb difference or those who’ve experienced traumatic limb loss by making a tax-deductible donation.