The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Perfect penmanship, no hands needed

Annie Clark, 7, who was adopted from China, holds the pencil between her forearms.
Larry Roberts/AP

7-year-old Annie Clark from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has won a national penmanship award despite being born with no hands. Zaner-Bloser Inc. recognized Annie at Wilson Christian Academy in West Mifflin with its first-ever Nicholas Maxim Award. Annie received a trophy that was nearly as big as her and also a check for $1,000 from a textbook publishing company. After accepting her large trophy, she showed the crowd just how she goes about writing by holding a pencil between her forearms.  Of her writing skills, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 'I think about doing words and spelling,' and has 'learned to go slow.'

But Annie hasn’t stopped with just excellent penmanship, she has learned to paint, draw and color.  She also swims, dresses, eats meals, opens cans of soda by herself, and uses her iPod touch and computers without assistance. Someday, she wants to write books about animals.  It is so inspiring to see a girl at such a young age to be seemingly unfazed by her disability.  This is girl is truly remarkable.  And it is no surprise given the supportive and loving family that she is a part of.  The girl's parents, Tom and Mary Ellen Clark, have nine children – three biological and six adopted from China, including Annie. Annie is one of four of the adoptees who have disabilities that affect their hands or arms. The Clarks also have an adopted child, Alyssa, 18, and a biological daughter, Abbey, 21, with Down syndrome.  "Each time, we weren't looking to adopt a special-needs child, but that is what happened," said Mary Ellen Clark, 48, of McKeesport. "This was the family God wanted for us."  "She's an amazing little girl," said Tom Clark, 49, who owns an automotive dealership. "It's a shame because society places so many rules on how people should look, but the minds of these kids are phenomenal."  Mary Ellen hopes the award encourages her daughter "that she can do anything."

The Nicholas Maxim Award is so named for an exceptional boy who, like Annie, was born with no hands. He received a unique award for his participation in Zaner-Bloser's 20th annual National Handwriting Contest.  Zaner-Bloser was so inspired by his ability they decided to create a new Special Needs award category in his honor, The Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellent Penmanship.  Now in its 21st year, the National Handwriting Contest is an annual event that Zaner-Bloser sponsors to promote legible handwriting. Open to any student in grades 1-8, the contest is free to enter. The contest has also seen an increase in popularity as it has continued to grow over the years.  Kathleen Wright, head of the company's handwriting department, told the Tribune-Review that the National Handwriting Contest has grown from about 20,000 entries to more than 325,000 in its 21 years.  In an age where children are becoming increasingly dependent on technology and typing on a keyboard is more commonplace, it is nice to know that there are still children out there priding themselves on and being recognized for their lovely penmanship.

-Marisa Lindholm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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