A team of UCF students delivering bionic arms to make 12 children’s Christmas wishes come true was featured Sunday on NBC’s TODAY Show.
Limbitless Solutions, the UCF-based nonprofit organization that provides 3-D-printed bionic arms and hands to children at no cost to their families, started its 12 Arms for Christmas campaign with a delivery to a 5-year-old South Carolina girl.
Lila Brooks Pearson loves soccer and horses, so the students delivered her new arm at UCF alumna and soccer legend Michelle Akers’ horse-rescue ranch in Powder Springs, Ga.
Akers (’89) hosted the family and the students because she heard about Limbitless’ work and wanted to support them. Albert Manero, an engineering doctoral student and the founder of Limbitless, received the 2015 Michelle Akers Award at the UCF Alumni Association’s Black & Gold Gala in October.
Akers received multiple awards and honors while she played soccer. She was a four-time All-American during her career and caught the world’s attention with her amazing skill during the 1991 and 1999 World Cups. She was on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team, is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and was named FIFA Female Player of the Century.
Lila arrived at the ranch with her mom, dad, brother and grandparents. She met Akers’ rescue horses, goats and dogs before receiving her arm and her first lesson in how to use it. Akers gave her a team jersey and a high-five when Lila fed the horses with her new arm.
Right at Lila’s side was Alex Pring, the first recipient of a Limbitless arm. The 7-year-old received the team’s first arm and now has an updated Iron Man-themed arm after Limbitless earned the attention of actor Robert Downey Jr.
The 12 children scheduled to receive an arm this holiday season are 5 to 11 years old and live throughout the United States.