Pa. girl born without hands wins penmanship award

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WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. (AP) — A Pittsburgh-area girl born without hands has won a penmanship award — and $1,000 — from a company that publishes language arts and reading textbooks.

Zaner-Bloser Inc. recognized 7-year-old Annie Clark at Wilson Christian Academy in West Mifflin on Wednesday with its first-ever Nicholas Maxim Award.

Nicholas was a Maine fifth-grader born without hands or lower arms who entered the company's penmanship contest last year. His work impressed judges enough that they created a new category for students with disabilities.

After the ceremony Wednesday, Clark demonstrated her ability to write by manipulating a pencil between her forearms. Asked whether she was nervous about the attention, the girl said, "Not really, but kind of."

The girl's parents, Tom and Mary Ellen Clark, have nine children — three biological and six adopted from China, including Annie. Annie is one of four of the adoptees who have disabilities that affect their hands or arms. The Clarks also have an adopted child, Alyssa, 18, and a biological daughter, Abbey, 21, with Down syndrome.

"Each time, we weren't looking to adopt a special-needs child, but that is what happened," said Mary Ellen Clark, 48, of McKeesport. "This was the family God wanted for us."

Annie has learned to paint, draw and color. She also swims, dresses, eats meals and opens cans of soda by herself, and uses her iPod touch and computers without assistance. She hopes to someday write books about animals.

"She's an amazing little girl," said Tom Clark, 49, who owns an automotive dealership. "It's a shame because society places so many rules on how people should look, but the minds of these kids are phenomenal."

Mary Ellen Clark hopes the award encourages her daughter "that she can do anything."

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