Friday, April 06, 2007

The sweetest step


By Sara Cardine
Record Staff Writer
April 03, 2007 6:00 AM


Wars end, but their potential for human destruction endures.


Consider Daniel Ivic. One afternoon in May 1999, the 11-year-old was running through a field in his hometown in the Kosovo region of Serbia when an object caught his attention. It was part of a deadly cluster bomb and, when it exploded, it obliterated his legs, right eye and embedded shrapnel in his back.


Ivic would remain wheelchair bound, his family unable to afford quality medical care. His outlook was bleak until last year, when two Stockton groups helped him walk again.


The 18-year-old took his first steps in years Monday on legs designed and donated by Stockton's Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics. Ivic's visit was sponsored by Save Serbian Children, a nonprofit organization founded by local resident Milos Supica. He has spent the past 16 years providing aid and medical care to people in need, not only in Serbia but around the world.


"I'm more than excited and honored to help these people," Supica said. "They need this now, just as much as when (Serbia) was in the news."


Ivic has been overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of Americans, particularly the Stocktonians who have helped him.


"Something I never expected was (to learn) how very thoughtful and nice people are here in the U.S." Ivic said with Supica translating. "I'd heard a different story, so that's something new to me."


Save Serbian Children partners with local hospitals to provide care for young people and their families. When Supica learns of someone in need, he goes to work.


He heard about Ivic from a relative who was visiting the town of Smederevo, where Ivic was living with his parents. Supica worked closely with prosthetic expert Chuck Stockert of Hanger to fit Ivic with two prostheses, a below-the-knee piece for his right leg and a fully-jointed prosthetic for his left leg.


Stockert chose low-maintenance pieces that would not give Ivic too much trouble. Taking stock of what patients need and want in a prosthesis is an important part of making them whole again, he said.


"The big challenge is not making plastic or metal legs," Stockert said. "It's rebuilding the whole person."


But Ivic, whose limited English was derived from dubbed Hollywood films, had a much simpler take on his experience these past few weeks.


"It's great," he said, gripping his crutches and muffling a smile.


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Save Serbian Children
• Founded 1991
• This nonprofit organization provides help, in the form of medical treatment and supplies, clothing, food eyeglasses and toys to the young, elderly and war refugees living in Serbia.
• Founder: Milos Supica, longtime Stockton resident and owner of European Motors in Stockton
To learn more information or make a donation, visit http://saveserbianchildren.org, call (209) 952-3797 or e-mail saveserbianchildren@comcast.net

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