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Watch: North Vancouver War Amps member gifted weightlifting prosthetic

The custom-built artificial limb helps the high school athlete play the sports he loves

Zakary Sharp has a mean right hook.

And with a little help from The War Amps, he’ll be boxing with newfound strength from his left side too.

Sharp, who was born missing most of his left hand, has been gifted a new prosthetic specially designed to help him lift weights.

The 17-year-old student at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Secondary School is an avid athlete who plays basketball, football and skis the slopes. Sharp says his weightlifting prosthetic helps him stay in shape.

“To become good at sports, you have to lift weights and condition yourself. And that’s where this comes in,” he said.

Sharp was also developing some back pain from using his dominant, right arm so much.

“Since I’ve gotten this, my back pain has kind of been relieved,” he said. “And it just helps me be more confident and do the things I enjoy.”

To put on the prosthetic, Sharp slides his left arm into a carbon-fibre shell and then tightens Velcro straps to secure it in place. Fixed with an adjustable bolt, he tightens or loosens a clamp at the end, which he can attach to dumbbells and barbells.

Unfortunately, prosthetics like this aren’t cheap. In order to function correctly, Sharp’s weightlifting device was custom made by a Vancouver-based company called Barber Prosthetics. All-in-all, it cost around $8,000 to produce.

But as a member of The War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) program, he was able to have the entire cost covered. He’s also received support for his other prosthetics – one for general use and one specialized to hold a ski pole.

Sharp said the program has helped him out a lot.

“I’m missing just a little bit my hand – just basically the fingers and little bit of palm – but for people who are missing a lot more … prosthetics are very valuable to them,” he said. “I just think [The War Amps] are a great idea.”

The organization said it encourages members to develop a positive attitude toward their amputations and try any activity they set their minds to.

“Zakary’s determination and zest for life is an inspiration to all around him,” said Danita Chisholm, executive director of the CHAMP program. “Thanks to the public’s support of The War Amps Key Tag Service, we are able to help young amputees reach their goals.”

Sharp is actively involved in The War Amps organization, participating in community events like parades, and teaching young kids the importance of playing safe.

“I recently went to a preschool and I … gave them a presentation,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing more."