Steve Chamberland this week has heard from a lot of childhood friends from his hometown in Massachusetts.
Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday that killed three people and injured more than 170, the Largo fitness trainer began getting telephone calls.
His best friend from high school said his cousin lost his legs in the attack. Could Chamberland’s charity for amputees help?
“I got my leg ripped off in a motorcycle accident. It’s not the same thing, but I know what it’s like to be where they are,” said Chamberland, a former professional wrestler.
Chamberland grew up in the Boston area. He plans to fly there Tuesday to meet with at least four survivors who have reached out to him. He is traveling with a local military veteran who lost a leg in an explosion during a deployment in Afghanistan.
People and groups have donated money to Chamberland’s charity, 50 Legs, in recent days since he announced he would get prosthetic legs for Ireland Nugent, a 2-year-old Palm Harbor girl who last week lost both her legs in a lawn mower accident.
In Boston, meanwhile, friends and acquaintances are raising money to support his efforts to help those injured in the marathon.
“Most of the people that were injured in these bombings, they lost limbs. The biggest thing we’re hearing is the injuries definitely resulted in amputations,” said Meredith Evangelisti, whose Boston-based fitness clothing store is donating 25 percent of its proceeds in the next few weeks to 50 Legs.
Though various organizations have set up funds to help the bombing survivors, Evangelisti said many people in the area know Chamberland and are familiar with his charitable work. Evangelisti attended high school with him.
Dave D’Annolfo is organizing a golf tournament in Westfield, Mass., about 90 miles west of Boston, to help the victims through 50 Legs.
“He helps out a lot with just the emotional side of it,” D’Annolfo said of Chamberland, who was a childhood friend of his wife.
“Life’s not over when you lose your leg.”