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Carley and Bethany Hamilton showing off their stumps

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!

Much has transpired in Carley Shoesmith’s life since she stepped out of the van in Del Mar, CA to attend her very first Beautifully Flawed retreat in 2013 the inaugural retreat for the foundation. Her story hasn’t been easy by any means, yet, it’s one filled with hope, a story of how God took chapters of pain, disappointment, and loss and used it for good, turned it into purpose. It’s a story of redemption.

Carley, long-time Beautifully Flawed Retreat attendee and leader

In 2009, Carley found herself in the hospital for almost four weeks. Suffering from a rare medical condition called thoracic outlet syndrome that causes blood clots, Carley underwent 12 major surgeries to try to save her right hand, her dominant hand. As an avid athlete, passionate about basketball and her love for the game, saving her shooting hand meant everything. After exhausting every option, on August 26, 2009, Carley’s right hand had to be amputated. As a 17 year old with dreams of playing collegiate basketball, it was devastating and heartbreaking.

Four years later, Carley received an email from the Beautifully Flawed Foundation, at the time known as Friends of Bethany Hamilton. Bethany was someone Carley greatly admired and looked up to years prior to her amputation and once she became an amputee herself, Carley found Bethany’s inspiring story of hope and overcoming resonate on an even deeper level within her. So when Carley saw the email announcing the first ever Beautifully Flawed Retreat, she didn’t hesitate to submit her application. That one decision was just the beginning, an open door to the overflow of God’s grace, goodness, healing, and restoration in her story!

Group photo from the first Beautifully Flawed Retreat in 2013

Carley went on to attend six more Beautifully Flawed retreats, three as a retreat leader and three as a staff member at the foundation. With so many memorable moments throughout those seven years involved at the foundation, one that stands out for Carley was the opportunity to emcee and interview Bethany Hamilton at one of our Shine Forth nights an event we put on for the community as a way to inspire hope to overcome. Being able to interview the woman that inspired her in her own journey through limb loss was truly a powerful moment for Carley.

Carley and Bethany Hamilton on stage at Shine Forth

In addition to that, one of the most impactful things that came out of the Beautifully Flawed retreats for Carley were the beautiful, lifelong friendships that she still has to this day. What began as deep bonds initially formed over the shared journey’s of walking through limb loss have turned into lifegiving friendships where they now walk through every aspect of life together, almost daily texting and talking to one another.

And, it doesn’t stop there. Carley shared that since 2019, “I became a wife and a mom of two and the varsity basketball coach at the very high school I played at and stepped back onto the court after losing my hand, such a full circle moment! I am truly living out my dream. I get to spend the day with my babies and the evenings on the court sharing my passion for the love of basketball.”

No one but God could have written this kind of redemption story. He took the devastating and painful chapters of her story, what seemed to be the loss of a life dream at the time, and He made beauty from the ashes. In Jeremiah 29:11 God declares, “For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future!” This is a promise for every single human being on earth, and one that can be seen as clear as day over Carley’s life. August 26, 2009 was not the end of her story by any means God had so much more for Carley, taking what started as heartbreak and loss, and turning it into something more beautiful and redemptive than she could have possibly imagined.

Carley's residual limb

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