Verkilya Hogan

I finished my junior year in high school and everything was perfect. I thought that nothing could possibly ruin my joy. I attended my first high school prom, received my driver’s license, and made captain of the varsity cheer-squad. But then everything changed.

On May 18, 2016, I was involved in a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) crash when I was enjoying a day out with classmates. We went to the local park in our neighborhood, and my friend and I took a spin on a UTV. I was the driver, and turned onto a deep curve that caused the utility vehicle to flip. As the UTV flipped, I threw my arm outside of the vehicle to brace my fall. I was later airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. I had no idea what to expect upon my arrival, but I knew God was in the midst the entire time. I endured approximately 7 surgeries and made the decision to amputate my left arm on May 24, 2016.

Having my arm amputated at the age of 16 was quite devastating. I had so many questions as to how I would adjust back to my daily life. How will I go into my senior year like this? How will I still be captain of the cheer squad? How will I be able to go off to college alone?

God turned my thinking of “How will I?” into “I will show you!” Although I did not understand His purpose for my life at the time, I knew without a doubt there was a purpose. My faith in Him gives me the strength to accomplish every single thing I set my mind to. I finished my senior year of high school with a 3.89 GPA and was top 10 out of 165 students. I remained captain of the varsity cheer squad and had the most fun cheering during my last year of high school. I was voted Miss Holmes County Central High School and was a member of the Senior Cabinet. I am now 19 years old and attend the University of Southern Mississippi as a sophomore. Through all of the trials I have faced, the Lord has given me strength.

I attended my first Beautifully Flawed Retreat in 2017 where I met the LSK Foundation team. They noticed my first prosthetic arm, which did not have the best looking cover. My prosthesis was bulky and the wrong skin color, but I wore it everyday like it was the best thing ever. In early 2018, I received a message from Lisa to discuss my desires of having a beautiful prosthesis. When I was accepted to receive a silicone covering through the LSK Foundation, I was overwhelmed with joy. I immediately followed Lauren on Instagram and saw so many pictures of her arm. I was so excited to know that one day I would wear an arm that looks as real and beautiful as hers.

On May 18, 2018, 2 years to the date of my accident, I received my beautiful prosthesis. I was so amazed that an artificial arm could look and feel just like my very own. In that moment, I felt grateful and blessed. I thank God for blessing this foundation, so that they could be a huge blessing to me and many other recipients. I walk around so confidently now with my new arm, and it is hard for anyone to tell which arm is artificial. I cannot express enough how I will be forever grateful for my arm and I pray that God will continue to bless this foundation.

Clare Scheller

The summer after graduating high school is when my life as I knew it changed forever. This is typical of most 18-year-olds about to leave high school behind and begin life as a college student, but mine changed for completely different reasons and set me on a path I never imagined. I was working as a lifeguard that summer of 2010, and I fainted after spending a couple hours in the heat from what I assumed was dehydration or heat exhaustion. I continued to feel fatigued and not like my usual, active self for the next week or so. I was getting out of breath after walking a long distance or climbing up a flight of stairs. Given I had played 3 sports all through high school, I knew something was off. I went to my doctor and he sent me to have blood work done for what I thought would be mono or something minor. The blood work ended up coming back irregular and my mom was instructed to drive me about 2.5 hours north to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. After many tests, needles, and biopsies it was confirmed that I had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). It was completely out of the blue and so unexpected—it felt like a bad dream. I was put on a treatment plan and immediately began chemotherapy sessions.

My life quickly turned from picking out a dorm room and college courses to choosing hats for my balding head and which medications I would need to offset the chemotherapy side effects. I started having awful pain in the lower part of my left leg a few weeks into my chemo treatment. Initially we were told it was just another one of the many side effects from chemo. It was only until I was being taken to the children’s hospital via helicopter that my family and I realized something extremely serious was going on. I was admitted into the ICU was put in a medically induced coma. My parents were told that I had developed a life-threatening infection that was sending my body into septic shock. The chemo had dropped my immune system so low, that I no longer had the ability to fight off even the most harmless bacteria in my body. My organs were shutting down, so I was hooked up to many machines that were keeping me alive, including a ventilator and kidney dialysis. Due to the sepsis that had taken over my body, my doctors and parents then made the difficult decision to have my left leg amputated at the knee, as a last effort to rid what was causing the infection. There were doubts that even if my leg was removed that I would not survive the surgery due to blood loss. I later woke up to the news that my leg had to be amputated so I could live.

I spent a total of six weeks in the ICU. Once I was stable enough, I was moved to the cancer floor where I spent another six weeks, including my 19th birthday. From there I was transferred to multiple rehab hospitals, where I eventually learned to walk with a prosthetic leg and recover. I returned home in time for Thanksgiving that year, after a total of four months spent as an in-patient. The rest of my battle with leukemia was not easy, and filled with lots of ups and downs. Since then, I have had many hospital stays, surgeries, and other health problems due to the side effects of chemotherapy. I also was diagnosed with avascular necrosis (AVN) in my hips, shoulder and foot, which causes joint pain due to lack of blood flow. This and another infection in my left hip resulted in lots of pain, forcing me to be in a wheelchair for over a year. During this time, I was on multiple pain medicines, morphine drips, and IV antibiotics. For a year and a half, I spent almost every Monday in Indianapolis for chemotherapy infusions, spinal taps and blood and platelet transfusions. In July of 2012, I had my final dose of chemo and was considered to be in remission. In the fall of 2012, I received two hip surgeries including a total hip replacement, allowing me to learn to walk once again with a prosthetic leg.

Since 2010, I have endured 15 spinal taps, over 59 blood and platelet transfusions, over 20 inpatient admissions to the hospital, and 28 surgeries. Since loosing my leg in 2010, I have had several different types of prosthetic legs on a search to continue finding different knees, feet and sockets to allow me to walk more comfortably and live an active lifestyle. I had always dreamed about having a realistic looking cover for my prosthetic leg, but never thought it would be possible due to the costs and insurance not covering it. That all changed when I found out about the Lauren Scruggs Kennedy Foundation. I could not be more grateful for the beautiful silicone covering they have provided me with. It is a dream come true to look down and see my prosthetic leg match my real leg! Despite everything, I have refused to let cancer or a prosthetic leg slow me down. I attended the University of Southern Indiana, where I graduated from in December of 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. I now work for the foundation of a children’s hospital in Chicago.

Clare’s silicone covering was graciously sponsored by Marc Fisher

Sarah Garbers

My parents adopted me from South Korea when I was a baby and had been born missing my left arm at the elbow. The adoption agency stated that I would not be accepted into Korean society because of a missing limb, so adoption was the best option for me. Growing up the youngest of six kids, my parents wanted me to grow up to become self-sufficient to do things by myself, rather than others helping me with even simple tasks.

One way that my parents thought would help me to do things by myself was to go to Shriner’s Hospital to be fitted with a prosthesis. I do not remember a time when I did not have a prosthesis, I would even stay home from school if my arm needed to be shipped for repairs. It was a body-powered arm, with silver cables, hard outer shell, and a moveable hand in a claw-like shape. At the elementary school that I attended, I can honestly say that I was never bullied and never felt self-conscious about how my arm looked. Looking back, I will always be thankful for the kindness of those classmates.

I never have/will be athletic, one arm or two arms. In high school, I played the trumpet in marching band, acted in the theater plays, and even did an entertainment speech for speech team about the different uses of my arm. Throughout life, my arms always got the stares and questions in public but it never bothered me too much.

When I went to college, I became greatly aware of how I looked and did everything to avoid showing others my arm. I wanted a more realistic looking arm as I began to work jobs and think about future careers. When I turned 21, I received a “final” arm from Shriners that was custom painted to match my skin tone. However after five years of wear and tear, that arm was in tough shape with a socket that had become too big.

I first heard about Lauren right after her accident in 2013, but then again a few years later because I followed Bethany Hamilton on Instagram and saw that she was her friend. I was struck by both of their confidence and beauty, but mostly by how much they loved God. One day I was scrolling through Instagram and saw Lauren post about her new LSK Foundation that would provide custom prosthesis covers to women. I applied immediately because I had been worrying about replacing my arm and saving the money for the cover because insurance would not cover it. It could not have been a bigger answer to my prayers. A few months later, I received an email that I had been selected, and I was able to meet Lisa, Ashley, and Lauren (and Bethany) at the Beautifully Flawed Retreat in 2017. Throughout the entire process, they were so understanding and amazing.

Kendra Scott jewelry sponsored my arm cover and actually flew me to Los Angeles to attend the grand opening of one of their stores. I felt like a VIP and will be forever grateful for their generosity and kindness of all of the KS family.

Overall, I love my new covering. When I first wore it around people I knew, some had to ask which arm was my prosthesis and which was my actual arm. I have no second thoughts wearing a short sleeve top. I love when strangers are amazed at how perfectly it matches my skin tone and how long it took them to realize that it was not real. I cannot properly put into words the sense of peace this arm has given me and all I can say is thank you LSK Foundation!

 Sarah’s silicone covering was graciously sponsored by Kendra Scott

Shelley Tarescavage

As a teenager (and still to this day) I loved fashion, makeup, and—above all else—hair. In high
school, I even began taking cosmetology classes in hopes of one day owning my own salon as a
hair dresser. But, my future would change dramatically at the age of 16, when I developed a
small, seemingly harmless bump on my right (dominant) wrist. It turned out that the small bump
was on the surface of a tangled, spiderweb of cancerous cells wrapping around my entire
forearm. My dad and I traveled around the country in search of experimental treatments, none of
which were effective. I had my right forearm amputated a few months after my 18 th
birthday—my welcome into adulthood.
I was blessed. My amputation was below the elbow, so I could use a functional prosthetic. More
importantly, I was alive and free of the cancerous cells. But, as an 18 year-old, I truly did not feel
blessed. I couldn’t finish my cosmetology program. I couldn’t picture my future. And I felt
insecure—How could anyone love me? Would I ever have children? What would I do with my
life?
At the age of 25, I had yet another battle with cancer, as I had a reoccurrence in my shoulder and
lungs. I underwent radiation and inpatient chemotherapy treatment. I lost my hair. The doctors
told me that I lost the ability to have a child. Here we go again, I thought, feeling insecure and
worried about my future.
I am now 30 years-old. My husband proposed to me five years ago, the night I was told that my
cancer had reoccurred. I have a son that was born two years ago, three years after doctors told me
that I couldn’t conceive a child. I am alive and in remission. My hair is down to my shoulders,
and I have a prosthetic arm that looks so real that people try to shake it when they meet me.
In short, I am living the future that I could not imagine. Thank you, LSK foundation.

Kelley Mann Wells

My story begins the day I was born. I’d like to think it was somewhat relieving for my parents those first few years because I was too young to know and care I was missing my left arm. When I hit that age where I realized I was different, and always would be, the struggle of insecurity, disapproval, and rejection came crashing in. I always felt a little better when I would wear my prosthesis, hoping that no one would notice my arm. This required me to wear a lot of ¾ length and long sleeve shirts during a time when tube tops were every pre-teens dream. As I got older, the easier it got to accept that I had one arm, but that feeling of rejection was always in the back of my mind. That’s when I finally decided to completely trust what the Lord says and rest in Psalms 139, which states, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. (Psalms 139:13-16)

From that point on I tried to see any positive in my disability. I began to thank Jesus for everything I had instead of feeling defeated for what I was missing. I was an athletic girl growing up but attempted very few sports. After realizing you have to really enjoy running to be a track star, I decided to change paths. I always liked tennis because it was something I shared with my dad. I tried out for my high school team and played for two years as the number one spot. Life began to feel less challenging.

In college, I started to specifically pray for a man that would love me the way God saw me. These prayers showed me how much God truly loved me as He began to reveal blessing after blessing. My husband and I started off as friends in college so I knew he was well aware of my arm. I’ll never forget the day he told me he thought I was beautiful in every way. I grew up with my parents telling me I was beautiful, but hearing it from him was just different. It was what God had been promising me.

After going on three mission trips to Brazil, I knew my calling was to serve others. I graduated college in 2013 with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies. I was hired from an internship as a Therapeutic Foster Care Case Worker. Those trips and job were so eye-opening and have allowed me to put my focus towards helping others.   

I came across Lauren’s story early in 2015 and was immediately intrigued by the confidence she displayed as a woman missing her left arm. One of the first things I noticed was how natural her prosthesis looked. I was reading the stories of Lauren, Ashley, and Lisa on The LSK Foundation website when I noticed that there was a place to apply to receive a covering. I thought to myself, why not? I enjoyed filling out the application and telling my story in depth because it allowed me to reflect on some of the funnier moments involving my arm. I received an email in April from Lisa saying they loved my story and wanted to talk more. In July, the LSK team informed me that an organic skincare company called Cocokind was going to be my sponsor and cover all the costs of my cosmetic covering. That was the moment I realized I was about to have an experience that would change my life forever. To top it off, Cocokind featured me and my story on the side of one of their product boxes, which was so special and something I’ll keep forever.

I was so excited when the date was set to go to Dallas to receive my arm. It was the neatest experience to meet Mr. Mike Holt of ARTech and get to know him as he painted the covering to match my skin tone. I think my husband and I both wanted to cry when he told me I’d be able to paint the fingernails. That simple statement meant so much to me, a girl who had gone 26 years without having her nails painted. I’m always at a loss for words when I try to explain what this journey has meant to me. It really could take me all day to explain all the love I’ve received along the way. To Lauren, Ashley and Lisa, thank you for seeing something worthy of my story and allowing me to have this experience. I have enjoyed getting to know all of you so much and admire everything you’re doing to change the lives of young women. To Priscilla and her team at Cocokind, thank you for sponsoring me and having the desire to give back. I will never forget what all you have done for me.

Kelley's silicone covering was graciously sponsored by Cocokind Skincare. 

Diana Gazzano Gibson

Before my accident on June 25th, 2016, I was about as active as any 27-year-old can be. Most days you would find me waking up at 5:00am to take a class at my HIIT gym before heading into work. At that time, in fact the day before my accident, I had been promoted to a management position at my job where I had been working for five years prior. In 2011, I moved from northern New Jersey, where I was born and raised, to take an entry level position at my company. I knew that I was taking a risk by picking up my whole life and moving across the country but Arizona was calling me. My brother was already living in Scottsdale, Arizona so it made my decision easier. I also knew that my Dad and my step mother had intentions of retiring to the White Mountains in Arizona. My step sister followed suit too. I am blessed to have moved across the country and have been able to keep my family close.

Some might say that I’ve experienced more loss in my short 28 years then most do in their whole life. My mom, Linda Gazzano, passed away from cancer when I was 15 years old. She was diagnosed with cancer when I was in 7th grade and battled until I was a Junior in high school. I watched her fight until she was too tired to fight anymore. What she probably didn’t realize, myself too, that through her battle she taught me strength, resilience, perseverance and tenacity. She didn’t know that those very powerful teaching moments would ultimately set me up to overcome the loss of my arm. She was, is and will continue to be my hero.

On June 25th, 2016, I was involved in a roll over ATV accident where I lost my right arm above the elbow. I committed from the moment I woke up in the hospital that I would not allow this to define me. I made the decision that I would not be a victim of my circumstance and I would show others that they too can overcome. I found that nothing was more fulfilling then being able to do everything that I once could with one arm. 17 days after my accident I was back in the gym with my trainers doing what I’ve grown a custom to doing. Many people told me it was too soon but I decided it wasn’t.

During these last 15 months, I’ve truly gained more than I’ve lost. That may be difficult for some to understand. I’ve gained a new appreciate for life, I’ve grown stronger than I ever could with two arms and I’ve overcome more than I ever thought I would. The truth is, I would not change a thing. I’m back in the gym everyday like I once was and I’m a better person because of what happened to me.

On September 5th of last year, my fiancé asked me to marry him. He, along with my family have been the most incredible support system. Without them I would not be nearly as far along as I am. I am the luckiest person in the world to have them. I am so excited to know that I will be able to have beautiful silicone covering for my prosthesis on my wedding day. I never thought that I would need to worry about how my arm would look on my wedding day but The LSK Foundation, ArTech and Advanced Arm Dynamics have put me at ease. I am so honored and grateful that they have chosen me as their very first recipient. I hope that one day I will be able to be as impactful on someone as they have been on me. I am forever grateful to the whole team.

Photos by Advanced Arm Dynamics