As Aaron Holm lay in his hospital bed, about to head into another surgery for his amputated legs, he had a strange request for his friends and supporters.
“Wiggle your toes for me,” he wrote online.
It was something he’d never do again, though in his mind, he could still feel the phantom sensation of his toes moving.
That was 2007, just after he’d been hit by a car while changing a friend’s tire on the side of a highway. He lost both legs above the knee.
His request, though unusual, became his personal cause a year later when he launched Wiggle Your Toes, a nonprofit that supports amputees in the aftermath of trauma.
What began as a service to provide information and inspiration at new amputees’ bedside has become a national resource that helps people get back to their lives — and sometimes stretch the limits far beyond.
Wiggle Your Toes has helped people golf, run, ski and wakesurf in prosthetics.
A turning point for the organization came when Holm was called on to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. His team provided moral support as well as material support — widening doorways and installing ramps in the homes of victims, helping them acquire prosthetics and being there with a dose of reality after the international media went home.
“People are coming in and telling you, ‘You’re going to climb mountains and run marathons,’ but we need to tell you you’re going to be able to be at home and brush your teeth,” said Holm, 51, of Shakopee. “Getting up in the night and using the bathroom and going back to bed, that’s the message we were trying to convey.”
That endeavor is now getting the Hollywood treatment.
A new film, “Stronger,” features Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, a runner who lost his legs in the Boston bombing and was the subject of one of the most famous images of that day.
Holm, whose day job has him lobbying legislators and insurance companies on behalf of Ottobock, a prosthetics company, was instrumental in getting Bauman the prosthetics he needed.
Holm recently attended the premiere of the film in Boston.
But it’s not just high-profile victims who get Holm’s attention.
Two days after Sally Lynick gave birth to her son Vincent, doctors told her that her son had a congenital condition that would require him to have his leg amputated.
“It was horrible,” said Lynick, of Burnsville. “The most devastating thing in the world. I just thought, ‘What’s his life going to look like?’ ”
In her desperate search for information and connection, she found Wiggle Your Toes. She reached out and Holm got right back to her, inviting her to the organization’s summer fundraiser. Soon afterward, she learned that the organization would be raising money specifically to support Vincent.
“Ever since then, Aaron and Wiggle Your Toes are like family to us,” Lynick said.
“You have this deeper connection with people who know what you’ve gone through.”
Now 3, Vincent has seen fellow amputees skiing, surfing and living active lives.
“If he wants to do it, he’ll do it,” she said, “and I know Wiggle Your Toes will make sure he will do it.”