10-Year-Old Girl Born Without Hands Wins National Handwriting Competition

A remarkable story of a girl born without both hands winning the national handwriting competition is going viral.

Sara Hinesley, 10, cannot comprehend why she won the competition since she did not even have hands to write.

She paints and draws and sculpts clay, and can write in English and some Mandarin, she learned how to write in cursive this year, and thought it was “kind of easy” even though she was born without hands.

“I have never heard this little girl say, ‘I can’t,’ ” said Cheryl Churilla, Sara’s third-grade teacher. “She’s a little rock star. She tackles absolutely everything you can throw at her, and she gives it her best.”

Sara, a third-grade student at St. John’s Regional Catholic School in Frederick, Md., won the 2019 Nicholas Maxim award for her cursive handwriting. The award is given annually to two students with special needs — one for print writing, the other for script.

She never depends on prosthetic’s and even if she is offered tools to make her work easy, like a pair of scissors to cut paper, she rejects it, said her mother, Cathryn Hinesley.

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

So if you’re wondering how Sara writes, she grips her pencil between her arms, and concentrates on the shapes of letters, each point and curve. It makes her feel she is creating g artwork when she is writing cursive, she says. I like the way the letters are formed,” Sara said. “It’s kind of like art.”

Sara arrived in the US from China about four years ago to join her new family in July 2015. Her mother said, she could speak and write in Mandarin. She picked up English quickly with the help of her sister, Veronica.

“We learned pretty quickly to trust her judgment and let her gauge how much she wants to do and then let her do it,” Hinesley said. “That’s Sara. She moves through life in this way that you never really see her as having a disability because she has this can-do, I-can-tackle-anything attitude.”

Sara Hinesley’s handwriting.

In her free time, Sara likes to draw “things that are around me,” like sunflowers. She enjoys swimming, playing with Veronica, also 10, and participating in her school’s chess club. There’s little she isn’t willing to try, her mother said.

“Sara is a testament to perseverance and the human spirit,” Hinesley said. “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.”

Sara will receive her national award, a trophy, and an award of $500 at an awards ceremony on June 13. She is the first student from St. John’s to ever receive the Nicholas Maxim award, Principal Kathy Smith said.

She said, “I feel so excited and proud.”

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