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To win a national award for handwriting, especially in this digital age, is an achievement in itself. But what makes Anaya Ellick’s accolade extra special is that the seven-year-old accomplished the feat despite having no hands. Even more amazing? The first-grader from Chesapeake, Virginia, who won the prestigious Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellence in Manuscript Penmanship, on April 11, does not use prosthetics. The young girl produces her perfect penmanship by standing close to her desk with her pencil firmly gripped between her forearms.
While the impeccable handwriting may surprise the world, Tracy Cox, principal of Greenbrier Christian Academy where Anaya goes to school, is not. In fact, it was Cox who entered the 1st grader in the annual national handwriting competition organized by educational company Zaner-Bloser. The young girl who competed in the category for students with disabilities had to outshine 50 contestants to win the award. But there was little to worry about. Contest Director Kathleen Wright said the judges, many of who are occupational therapists, were "just stunned" by the quality of Anaya's printing. Wright says, "Her writing sample was comparable to someone who had hands."
The award which comes with a Zaner-Bloser gift certificate for Greenbrier Christian Academy and $1,000 USD cash prize and a trophy for Anaya, is named after Nicholas Maxim, a fifth grader from Readfield, Maine. In 2011, the young boy who is born without his lower arms, submitted a cursive entry so impressive that Zaner-Bloser decided to create a new category to honor physically challenged kids.
Anaya’s proud parents, Bianca Middleton and Gary Ellick say the young girl’s determination and desire to be independent became apparent when she was just an infant. Unable to hold on to her pacifier with her hands, she figured out how to do it by cupping her arms. As a toddler, she learned to eat with a fork and build with blocks. At 5, she managed to perch a crayon or marker between her hands and draw. Though Anaya was fitted with prosthetic arms for a short time, the young girl decided she was better off with her natural ones and discarded them. As it turns out, she was right! Though winning the handwriting award was thrilling, Anaya has already moved on to her next goal — She now wants to master karate!