Talk about beating the odds: A first-grader born without hands who was adopted by a Pittsburgh familyhas won a national penmanship award. Seven-year-old Annie Clark was honored with the Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellent Penmanship at a surprise school assembly last week. Her mom says Annie was shocked to be presented with a trophy and $1,000 prize from Zaner-Bloser, the publishing company that sponsors the contest. “I could tell she was overwhelmed, but she was poised,” said Mary Ellen Clark.
Her teachers and family members say Annie can sometimes be shy, but she is always tenacious and diligent. “When she does any kind of writing, she wants to make sure that it’s clear and concise and she really takes pride in her work,” Annie’s teacher Laura Erb at Wilson Christian Academy said.
So how does Annie write, you ask? Erb says she holds her pencil between her forearms and sometimes has to stand to stay within the lines on the paper. Despite her disability, Erb says Annie never falls behind in class and is a quick learner. And her grit doesn’t stop at school work. “Annie has always been very, very determined, very self-sufficient in dressing herself and feeding herself,” Annie’s dad, Tom Clark said. “She can ride a bike. She swims. She is just determined that there’s nothing she can’t do.” She can also type, use an iPad, and even paint her toe nails.
Annie’s no stranger to overcoming obstacles. The Post-Gazette reports that her parents have three biological children and six adopted ones — like Annie — all of whom have physical or mental disabilities. The entire family is proud of Annie’s accomplishments and supportive of her dream to become an author. “This has given her a real sense of confidence,” her mom said. “She is just proud to be her and, as a parent, I’m just thrilled with that.”