Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Four-year-old Eli Johnson has the high-energy any other kid would have. He’s his father’s pride and joy and his mother’s little dinosaur expert. Eli’s just like any other preschooler.
“We didn’t know before he was born. Even though we had ultrasounds, we never saw it,” said Eli’s mom, Minde.
“Most everyone is born with their limbs and all these normal capabilities and now I think God has blessed us with this opportunity with Eli,” explained Eli’s father, Donny.
Eli has a congenial amputation, born without his full right arm, but that doesn’t hold him back.
“Nothing slows him down. I cannot tell you how amazing the child is. It’s like miracles,” said Minde.
Even the smallest things can be more challenging for Eli, like riding a bike. With 3-D printers and a lot of imagination, one local group is changing that by making him a prosthetic for a bicycle for Eli to ride.
Piece by piece, finger by finger, H.O.P.E at the University of South Carolina is printing a better future for kids.
H.O.P.E stands for, “Hands On Prosthetics Engineering.”
Abby Herschman and Andrew Super are the co-presidents of the organization. They got the idea to start the non-profit group at USC from a Reddit page and from a similar program at the University of Florida.
At high costs, some families are forced to have their child live without a prosthetic.
Students like Herschman and Super eliminated that worry and expense for families, making them for free.
Herschman says the prosthetics are meant to grow with the children so they won’t have to buy another one as they get older. It’s just a matter of changing pieces to adapt to them as they get bigger.
“We do all the fitting, all the sizing, and printing. We do multiple prints if it doesn’t fit perfectly the first time. We make sure that it fits perfectly for each client,” explained Herschman.
With keeping their client in mind, the students focus on making the perfect prosthetic for them. They take the kids interests and make theirs unique to them. For example, Eli loves dinosaurs so they’re planning to add dinosaur claws onto his prosthetic.
“If they have any kind of improvement, whether mentally or physically making their lives easier, that’s what I care about,” explained Super.
Super had a lot on his plate with classes, his internship, a job, and working on the prosthetics and had to make a tough decision. He was so dedicated to the cause of helping families, he quit his job so he had more time to devote to the kids.
“Children deserve to have a prosthetic that grows with them and especially something they can be proud of,” said Super.
At times, they’ll work on their patient’s prosthetic until after one o’clock in the morning. What makes it worthwhile for the students is to see the kids smile.
“Seeing the reaction on our clients faces when they get their prosthesis, definitely the best part,” said Herschman.
What’s in the future excited the Johnson family.
“We’re really excited to find something that will fit him and will be safe. I think he’s really going to love once he figures out how to use it,” explained Minde.
There’s a little more to do for Eli’s, but they hope to have it done by Christmas.
It’s a gift that will bless kids like Eli for years to come.
“When he sees other kids in the street, he can go hop on out there with them. Just be like one of the kids,” explained Donny.
If you want more information about H.O.P.E. and would like to contact them, you can click here.