New Brunswick

National award goes to spirited Moncton student who hasn't let loss of arm stop her

As a little girl, Carly Smith wanted to cross the monkey bars like all the other kids.

Carly Smith plans to be occupational therapist so she can help others

Carly Smith has received national recognition for her spirit and achievements. (Parachute website)

As a little girl, Carly Smith wanted to cross the monkey bars like all the other kids.

So she went home and practised for the next three weeks.

"I couldn't exactly do them at first, but I'd go home and practise at a nearby school, and I ended up being able to do them," said the 17-year-old Moncton High School student. 

Smith was born without a left arm and always had to do things a bit differently.

"Tying my shoes as a kid, I had to adapt differently to that, and try different ways of doing that," she said.

When she got a bit older, she was also determined to tie her hair back in a ponytail on her own, with the help of a wall.

Never give up and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need. But also don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and say that 'you've got it.'- Carly Smith.

"I wanted to be independent and not always near my mother, so I had to learn how to do it by myself."

Last week, the teen was announced last week as the 2021 winner of the Stacey Levitt Memorial Award.

The award honours a Canadian high school student who best exemplifies the spirit, drive and optimism of Stacey Levitt, a Toronto teen struck and killed by a motor vehicle while jogging in her neighbourhood in 1995.

The award is presented by Parachute, a national injury prevention charity. 

More than 700 submissions

This year, Parachute saw a record-breaking 743 submissions from 10 provinces and one territory. When Smith found out about her win, she was astonished. 

"It means a lot that I was recognized nationally," she said. "And it means a lot to my family as well."

The award encourages Canadian youth to embody Levitt's qualities. Every year, the Levitt family awards each year's recipient $2,500 for either education, travel or sports.

Smith plans to put the money toward her schooling.

Carly Smith was born an amputee, and is being awarded for her tenacity and community contributions. 5:33

This fall, she begins her studies for a bachelor of science in kinesiology at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. She plans to pursue a career in occupational therapy.

Smith said that from a very young age, she has seen an occupational therapist, who has helped her to adapt to different situations.

"I just want to give back and help kids just like me." 

In her spare time, Smith enjoys soccer, volleyball and curling, and she's an ambassador for the War Amps Child Amputee Program, which she has been part of since she was three months old.

"I just always had motivation to do my best and never give up," she said.

On the charity's website, Ned Levitt, Stacey's father, said it was "particularly difficult" to choose one winner this year.

Impressed principal

But it was Smith's "grit and determination" that made her stand out. 

"Carly has made me realize that she does not have a disability," said Michael Belong, principal of Moncton High School.

"And when she arrived in Grade 9, she has done nothing less than show us what can be achieved when one puts their mind to it."

Smith also has a message for kids like her.

"Never give up and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need," she said. "But also don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and say that 'you've got it.'"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

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