There was a bounce in his step and a smile on his face as Josh Beecher strapped his sleek new running blade prosthesis on his left leg and ran for the first time in his life.
“Amazing,’’ the 25-year-old Bedford resident said after running on the Manchester High School West track on Wednesday. He was wearing the lightweight curved prosthetic provided to him for free from The Born to Run Foundation.
Running next to Beecher was The Born to Run Foundation founder Noelle Lambert, herself an amputee, and the person who made Beecher’s dreams of running become a reality.
Through donations to the Born to Run Foundation, Lambert teamed up with Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics Inc. in Manchester to provide specialized prosthetics to young adults and children who “want to lead a fulfilling life without having to worry about the cost.’’
The cost of a specialized prosthetic can range from $5,000 to $30,000 and is not covered by insurance. Beecher is the fourth recipient since Lambert started the foundation in December 2018.
Matt Albuquerque, founder and CEO of Next Step, said he has known Beecher since he was a child, “when he needed a brace for a foot that just didn’t work well.’’
As the years passed, “Josh was the one who started the conversation about what his life would be like if he had his foot amputated. Not an easy discussion to have with anybody, but in Josh’s case he had never reached that point where he had been able to run,” Albuquerque said.
Beecher had multiple surgeries to try to fix his foot, a broken leg and spinal problems, all of which left him in agony.
“It is indescribable how much pain I was in,’’ he said.
Then two years ago he made “the toughest decision of my life, but the best decision of my life,’’ he said. He had his left foot amputated at his ankle.
“I woke up after the surgery and the pain was gone,’’ he said. “It was like a whole new me.’’
Beecher was fitted for a regular prosthetic limb that allowed him to walk, but running was uncomfortable.
Before he made the decision to amputate, Beecher did some research and discovered The Born to Run Foundation and applied for a running blade. The foundation, he said, is a lifesaver.
Lambert started the foundation as a way to give back for all the support she received when she lost her left leg in a 2016 moped accident.
Lambert, a rising star on the UMass Lowell women’s lacrosse team, was riding a moped with a friend on Martha’s Vineyard in July 2016 when she lost control and hit the side of a dump truck.
“Other than having my leg torn off, I didn’t have a scratch,’’ Lambert said.
Worried she’d never play lacrosse again, Lambert used the mental and physical skills she developed as a top athlete, along with her natural spirit and drive, to return to the field and the sport she loved.
Lambert has received many accolades for her achievements, but she didn’t start the foundation for the praise.
“It’s just amazing to see all the support we get ... and how we have kind of grown a family,’’ she said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to finally give back and help others in need.’’