This 10-year-old girl born without hands wins national handwriting competition

Sara Hinesley
Cathryn Hinesley

Sara Hinesley, a 10-year-old student, just won an award for her flawless handwriting. But aside from the award itself, what makes the recognition more remarkable is that this girl was born without hands.

Sara Hinesley writes by holding a pen between both ends of her arms, and no matter how hard it looks, the girl is able to produce beautiful and neat cursive.

Sara earned the Nicholas Maxim Award in the 2019 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. It is awarded to a student with a cognitive delay, an intellectual, physical, or developmental disability. The people who judged all entries for this year were all composed of a team of occupational therapists.

Cathryn Hinesley

A third grader at St. John’s Regional Catholic School in Frederick, Maryland, Sara found herself drawn to writing cursive when it was first taught to her by her teacher. The girl discovered that she had a natural talent for it.

“I thought it was easy, and I practiced at school,” Sara said.

As a natural-born artist, Sara considered cursive as a form of art. In the entry form of the award, there was an item that said: “Please tell us what you like best about handwriting.”

Then, in her perfect penmanship, Sara wrote: “The part of handwriting I like is the way cursive letters are formed.”

“Cursive is round and it’s trying to connect [letters] so it’s art,” she said. Aside from a trophy, Sara will receive prize money of $500 as well as $500 in educational materials for her school. She will receive the award on June 13, the last day of the school year.

Cathryn Hinesley

The Hinesley family adopted Sara – who was born in China – four years ago when she was just six years old. When she came to the U.S., she could only write and speak Mandarin. But she quickly learned English, thanks to her sister Veronica.

Sara is a naturally strategic person, and she was able to figure out a method of writing on her own. “Sara is very motivated and a disciplined student. She excels really at about anything she tries,” Cathryn Hinesley, the girls’ mother, said.

When she is offered help or a tool that might ease some tasks – like cutting paper with scissors – she refuses. For that reason, Sara has never worn a prosthetic. But it looks like the girl didn’t even need it in the first place.

“She has this independent streak where she just knows that she can do it and she’ll figure out her own way,” Cathryn said. “She is beautiful and strong and mighty just the way she is, and she just lives that way. She really does.”

Cathryn Hinesley

Sara likes to draw things around her, like sunflowers, during her free time. Aside from that, the girl is into swimming, playing with her sister, and chess. The lass is well-rounded, and there is little that she isn’t willing to try according to her mother.

“Sara is a testament to perseverance and the human spirit. Every day I’m amazed at the things she is able to do and that she chooses to do. She doesn’t try to find her way to avoid an obstacle, she finds a way to complete the task,” Cathryn said.

Sara Hinesley
Cathryn Hinesley

About her award, Sara says that she feels so “excited and proud.” The girl also hopes to inspire other children with disabilities and remind them through her experiences that: “if you try your hardest you can do it.”

Get to know Sara more by watching her ABC News interview in the video below.

Way to go, Sara! Your strength is an inspiration to all of us, and we can’t wait to see the greater things that you’ll accomplish with your determination and go-getter attitude.

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