First-Grader Born Without Hands Earns National Penmanship Award

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Annie Clark, a 7-year-old from Pennsylvania, has won a national penmanship award, a trophy and a $1,000 prize. She achieved all of this despite one key setback: she was born with no hands.

A first-grader at Wilson Christian Academy in West Mifflin, Penn., Annie received one of two awards granted by the Zaner-Bloser language arts and reading company, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The firm offered both awards to disabled students, with the other going to an Ohio student with a visual impairment.

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Annie writes by wedging a pencil between her arms — the same approach she uses to feed and dress herself, use school supplies and even paint her own toenails. Annie’s determination has helped her learn to swim, ride a bike, type on a keyboard and use an iPod touch, her father, Tom Clark, told the Post-Gazette.

The Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest, now in its 21st year, is an annual event, open to grade school students, which celebrates penmanship in an increasingly digital world. Annie’s handwriting sample earned her the Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellent Penmanship, created to honor Nicholas Maxim, a fifth-grader from Maine born without hands or lower arms. To win the Maxim award, students must have a cognitive delay or intellectual, physical or development disability.

“This has given her a real sense of confidence,” Annie’s mother, Mary Ellen Clark, told the Post-Gazette. “She is just proud to be her and as a parent, I’m just thrilled with that.”

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