“At first, I was insecure walking around like that,” he said. “ But I eventually got over that negativity, and think ‘what does it matter what others think when I’m trying to achieve my goal.’”
He eventually upgraded to taller legs with advanced technology that react to his movements. It took two years from the time of the accident for Clapp to feel comfortable walking, and he doesn’t write off how difficult that process was.
“It’s probably one of the hardest things on the face of this planet to get up and walk on two metal legs,” he said. “I can’t tell you the number of times I fell, because I lost count.”
Now, Clapp is more active than most people that have all four limbs. He surfs, skis, runs, swims, golfs and even drives a car. He is training for the swimming portion of a half ironman and has competed in the Endeavor Games, a tournament for those with physical disabilities.
And Clapp has also taken on his dream of acting. He’s appeared in TV sitcom “My Name is Earl” and starred in the motion picture “Stop Loss.”
Despite his athletic passions and motivational speaking, Clapp still finds the time to volunteer through Wounded Warriors and Camp Without Limits, where he is a counselor for kids that have lost a limb.
Clapp’s presentation included photos and videos of him both walking and falling, and getting back up again — a symbol of determination that impressed many members of the audience, including some fellow amputees.
“It’s a reminder than you can still find pleasure in life,” Kevin Degnan, who lost his leg two years ago, said. “He is so inspiring.”
Degnan, of Kenmore, is an avid runner himself and was hit by a car in 1986 while competing for Canisius College. He kept his leg for 25 years, but after numerous surgeries and the constant battle with infections, Degnan and his doctors made the difficult decision to amputate.
Six months after the amputation, Degnan competed in a 5k race, and he has also started Move Forward, a local amputee support group.
Clapp’s overall message rang true for Degnan, other amputees in the audience and anyone who’s encountering a daunting struggle.
“It’s not what happens to you,” he said. “But what do you about it that matters.”
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.