Thanks to Shriners Hospitals for Children, Hunter Woodhall has lots of legs to stand on.
The 13-year-old has his daily legs, running legs and wrestling legs.
The Syracuse Junior High eighth-grader is active a scenario that didn't seem likely after he had both feet amputated at 11 months old. His desire to push any limits set before him was one of the reasons Shriners Hospitals for Children selected him as a patient ambassador for 2012-13. The announcement was made on July 4 during the Imperial Session of Shriners International Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Every year, Shriners Hospitals for Children chooses two patient ambassadors to represent the thousands of children who receive care at the system's 22 facilities annually, regardless of their ability to pay.
Mike Babcock, spokesman for the Salt Lake Shriners Hospital, was one of the people who nominated Hunter for the international position and was thrilled when he was selected.
"Hunter is just a wonderful kid. He has a great attitude. He has excelled in academics and athletics. Hunter embodies what we hope to do at Shriners, which is take care of kids and help them reach their full potential," Babcock said. "We have done numerous surgeries and fit him with state-of-the-art legs, and he has stepped through every door and excelled. We offer every one of our patients the opportunity to excel and participate in every activity. When you have a kid like Hunter, who wants to push it, we will use all our means to take it to that level."
Hunter was born with serious problems with his ankles, lower legs and feet. He was missing part of an important bone, and his ankle was fused. A team of expert orthopedic doctors at the Tampa, Fla., Shriners Hospital told his parents Hunter's best option was to have both feet amputated. Still a baby, Hunter had the surgery and shortly afterward was fitted with prosthetics.
Hunter's family moved from Tampa to Spokane, Wash., and then settled in Utah, where his father is in the Air Force.
Not having feet hasn't stopped Hunter from playing sports. With the support of his parents, the help of Shriners Hospital and a whole lot of energy, Hunter is always on the run. He is on his school track, football and wrestling teams. In addition, he plays basketball, snow skis, inline stakes, swims and hunts.
Hunter's wrestling legs don't actually have feet.
"I have my normal prosthetic, which is for most sports, and then I have one for wrestling and swimming and one for track. My wrestling leg doesn't actually have feet. My feet are too hard, so it's like a foam liner," he explained.
"When I wrestle someone new, they sometimes give me a look, and a lot of people ask me about them. I explain, and then I tell them not to go easy on me, and they don't," Hunter said.
Hunter has fond memories of Shriners throughout his life. His first memory involves a stuffed cat the doctors gave him. "I carried that cat everywhere."
He also remembers the first prosthetics he picked out.
"I was 4, and they were blue and had frogs all over them. I liked crazy things, and they were colorful," he said. Hunter's tastes have grown more sophisticated with age, and his prosthetics now are all about function.
Hunter said that being an amputee has not kept him from doing anything he wants and has given him the opportunity to do things he wouldn't have like being an ambassador and public speaker and traveling for Shriners.
His mom, Barbara Woodhall, is excited about the opportunity to spread the word of Shriners' good deeds. She said Hunter has been an unofficial spokesman for Shriners, meeting with other patients and going out and speaking whenever asked. Now in the official capacity, his responsibilities will grow and will include attending the Justin Timberlake Golf Open in October and the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena.
"I am excited to share what Shriners has done for me and millions of others because I love them," Hunter said.