From the Ice Rink to Patient Advocacy, Kevin Herbert Makes an Inspiring Difference.
Our Fillauer spotlight this month is on Kevin Herbert, a father, patient advocate, and ambassador for disability awareness with a passion for hockey. As he works out in the gym or slides across the ice in his Team USA jersey taking shots at the net it’s hard to tell he is missing part of his arm. You can see that he’s enjoying the sport; for him it feels like home.
Kevin was born without his hand and arm just below the elbow. Growing up his disability was a struggle but gave him the opportunity to learn adaptability and resilience as he worked hard not to fall behind his peers. He learned to find solutions to challenging situations with creative thinking and perseverance, and through that he found the success and self-confidence that has helped him throughout his life.
After high school Kevin started training to become a chef and worked at a local fitness center, eventually choosing the fitness and wellness center full time. There he was able to meet and work with many great, goal oriented, and encouraging people. He also started sharing adaptive workout ideas and videos online.
When he was 30, he found the Lucky Fin Project (www.luckyfinproject.org) through some of his social media connections and joined them for a weekend retreat where he met and became friends with many other limb different people of all ages like himself. The tools, education and comradery offered in the group drew him to it. It was during that trip that he knew he wanted to do more for his limb different community and give back.
His experience led him to become an ambassador for the program and gave him chances to share his own story to inspire others, especially children learning to live with their disability, “The reason I do what I do is to help prevent it from taking so long for others to realize – you aren’t alone.”
After that first weekend with the Project, he took his excitement and ideas to his prosthetist, who appreciated his enthusiasm and took him onboard as a full-time employee and patient advocate. Later Kevin joined Allcare Orthotic and Prosthetic Services in New Jersey, and they helped him achieve a certification in peer visiting, patient education and advocacy work. He also runs a weekly virtual amputee support group. It has been a perfect fit for him.
“Live your life. Amputation doesn’t define you, unless you allow it. You are You because of your mind, heart and spirit, not your physical ailments.”
Kevin has enjoyed playing hockey since the age of 6 and in his mid-20s was talented enough to be invited to play on the 2012 USA Standing Amputee Hockey Team. Unfortunately, he broke his collar bone twice that year, the second time in a car accident weeks before a major tournament. That experience put him in a major depressive state, not just because he couldn’t play with his team, but because his doctor advised he not play competitively for 2-3 years after his surgery. He hung up his skates and said goodbye to the sport he loved…. but not forever.
In 2022 he was still in contact with some members of the organization, and ever since his son’s birth a few years earlier something in the back of his head kept pushing him to try again. “I denied those thoughts for two and a half to three years, but then I started to think, would I want my kids to give up on their dreams? Something they worked incredibly hard at, and they had an eternal passion for?” He went out to a local rink, rented some skates, and gave it a shot to see if he had anything left. The first time he got back on skates was an inspiration, he felt like he was home.
Then he bumped into some members of an ice hockey group from the limb different community who invited him to play. As a new dad he was worried about the cost involved but as fate would have it the Challenged Athletes Foundation (www.challengedathletes.org) had a yearly sports scholarship which he received to get the needed equipment and funds for the tournament. The rest, as they say, is history.
More than anything else in his life Kevin enjoys being a father, even with the mix of unknown challenges. One of his biggest worries was knowing that his wife and kids would be approached about his arm and the uncomfortable situations that could arise, but with love they accepted and made the best of it. “Some would say I got lucky, but I believe God is using me as a vessel to help those that struggle with their limb difference. And my family is just as strong in faith.”
Kevin has enjoyed the opportunities he’s been given to give back to the limb different community and feels strongly about getting more limb different individuals to join the field of prosthetics. There is no one better to educate and advocate for personalized patient care than someone who is living it themselves.
Kevin is a TASKA Ambassador, and one of the early adopters of the TASKA Hand. He also uses the TRS Power Play Hockey attachment and Black Iron Trainer in his workouts. You can watch for Kevin with the Standing Amputee USA Hockey Team in the upcoming annual USA Ice Hockey tournament in Spring 2024. He’ll also be participating in the Lucky Fin Project Weekend and the Limb Different 4 Life event in New Jersey later next year.
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