The Jordan Thomas Foundation
Helping Young Amputees Thrive Into Adulthood
Prostheses and Plan Bs: .ORG Helps Young Amputees Thrive Into Adulthood
Jordan Thomas encountered his “Plan B” during what was meant to be a relaxing day of scuba diving with his family. In a convergence of ocean waves, sharp propellers, and a strong wake, Thomas was badly injured. Multiple surgeries and the amputation of his lower legs could have dragged this straight-A student and talented golfer down, drowning in self-pity. Instead, once fitted for his top-of-the-line prostheses, he immediately made rounds in the hospital, visiting other child amputees.
“I saw the demand and I couldn’t afford to wait,” says Thomas, who founded the Jordan Thomas Foundation (JTF) nine days after his accident. He was 16. What made him think about others at such a challenging time in his own life? “My parents raised their children in an atmosphere to never forget their privileges. They didn’t just say that, they walked it. I’m purely a product of that [upbringing].”
“I knew I’d never have to financially worry about having the best quality prostheses,” Thomas explains. Once he learned they carry a price tag in the tens of thousands, and that most kids need new ones as they grow—about every 12-24 months—Thomas decided to fund life-changing prostheses for children in need. He created the Jordan Thomas Foundation (JTF) in his home state of Tennessee; but for the organization’s online home, he chose .ORG. “For me it’s all about validity. We’re fiduciaries. We’re responsible for the generous donations of thousands of people,” he says. “Being a .ORG means being an authentic, genuine organization that will use its donations wisely for maximum impact on the communities it serves.”
JTF uses its online presence to garner donations, share stories, and connect with disadvantaged children who need prostheses. A doctor or parent can apply on behalf of a child right on the organization’s site. The foundation will furnish not just one set of prostheses, but follow the child into adulthood, funding equipment updates. In addition, JTF provides advocacy, mental health and wellness programs, summer camp experiences, and physical therapy.
“I just remember seeing so many kids who didn’t have parents, didn’t have health care. I knew the future was grim for them.”
JTF also supports the interests and goals of the kids they serve. “For me, I don’t ever want my disability to define me or prohibit me from doing things I am passionate about. That applies to ‘my kids’ as well, and I do think of them that way,” Thomas says.
Meet some of Thomas’ kids: Mei Mei’s passion is swimming. Accepted as a beneficiary of the Foundation in 2016, she took gold in the Parapan American Games, and is currently training for Tokyo. As for Noah, who lost his leg as a complication of heart surgery as an infant, hip-hop dancing is what keeps him going. That, and a prosthetic foot with a split toe, so he can rock sandals in the summer months. Eight-year-old Lulu loves playing softball. While Luna, a nine-year-old, gets her kicks—and pliés—in ballet.
Golf is one of Founder Jordan Thomas’ biggest passions, so naturally the foundation holds a fundraising tournament, which has net more than $100,000 in donations in a year, enough money to help and support “a ton of kids,” says Thomas. For his work, Thomas was honored at the inaugural .ORG Awards as runner up in the Best Social Media Campaign category, has received the National Courage Award, the International Youth in Philanthropy Award, and has been named a CNN’s Top 10 Hero.
More important than any recognition he might receive, Thomas, who also serves as president of the foundation’s board of directors, says helping young amputees embrace their own Plan B is what brings him the greatest reward. He has expanded his work to support advocacy within the healthcare industry and on the congressional level focusing on the importance of funding prostheses, which he considers a basic human right. He’s working to serve more kids around the world, including those injured by land mines. What began in the southeast United States has expanded to Haiti and Russia and continues to grow globally.
“Ultimately, my goal is to put myself out of business,” Thomas says. “I don’t want there to be a need for my foundation, and I have a clear strategy to do that. We’re talking about a small population. Our goal is so attainable and specific.”
Access to affordable prostheses should be Plan A for any child’s Plan B, and Jordan Thomas is committed to providing that. “We don’t care what flag you’re under or god you pray to. If you need a prosthesis, we’re going to hook you up,” he says.