Middle school students' ingenuity helps boy born with only 6 fingers

GLENVIEW, Illinois -- Some middle school students in Illinois opened their minds and hearts to help a boy who was only born with six fingers.

Their efforts of ingenuity and caring for 8-year-old Dustin Celander paid off.

Wearing his brand-new prosthetic hand, Dustin beamed while entering Glenview's Attea Middle School, where 20 students toiled away for months designing and making several prosthetic hands, including the one Dustin will now use.

"It's just awesome to get a robotic hand like this," said Dustin, a soon-to-be third-grade student. "You have to move your wrist to active it. It's pretty cool."

Dustin was born without four fingers. The 7th or 8th grade students were involved in an enrichment class and worked on the project since September.

Thursday was the first time most of them had a chance to see Dustin with the latest model.

"It's the greatest feeling ever knowing we've made an impact on somebody's life and it can change his whole life," said Anna Dubinsky, a recent 8th-grade graduate. "Being able to help other people in our community, and maybe even more people with the hands we've built, is absolutely amazing. I'm so grateful I got this opportunity."

The project wasn't easy. In fact, the students designed and made at least 20 models. Why so many prototypes? The students said it had to do with the size of Dustin's hand.

"His hand is pretty wide, so some of the designs we tried...it would fit vertically but width, it wouldn't fit," said Jordan Raizer, an 8th-grade graduate. "So we had to keep trying."

So they worked away - with the help of an international community on the website "Enabling the Future" - until they found the perfect fit. Dustin said he can already use his prosthetic hand for everyday activities, like "eating cereal, holding balls, holding golf clubs."

His parents, Dan and Evon Celander, said they were "touched, moved and inspired" by the students' project as well.

Their teacher, Helene Davitz, spearheaded the school project, which ultimately transcends any lesson from a text book.

"They are powerful enough to transform somebody's life - everything they do can be transformative," Davitz said of the students.

The impact may be life-changing for Dustin. He sees it as a long-term solution too. How long will he use the hand?

"Probably the rest of my life," Dustin replied.
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