7-Year-Old Girl Born Without Hands Wins National Penmanship Contest

Searching for your daily dose of inspiration? Look no further than 7-year-old Anaya Ellick, a first-grade student at Greenbrier Christian Academy in Chesapeake, Virginia. Anaya, who was born without hands, recently won a national penmanship contest, The Virginian-Pilot reports. The feat was made even more impressive by the fact that Anaya didn’t use prosthetics for help.

Anaya, who holds a pencil between her wrists and stands at her desk to write, was selected to receive the Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellence in Manuscript Penmanship. According to CNN, the award was granted by the National Handwriting Contest, an annual competition sponsored by educational company Zaner-Bloser.

To be considered for the Nicholas Maxim Special Award, student must have “a cognitive delay, or an intellectual, physical or developmental disability,” Zaner-Bloser said in a release (via NPR). This year, the category received about 50 entries, which were evaluated by a team of occupational therapists.

The judges looked at Anaya’s submission, and “were just stunned to see how well her handwriting was, considering she writes without hands," the competition’s director, Kathleen Wright, told ABC News. "Her writing sample was comparable to someone who had hands."

Thanks to resolve and hard work, Anaya has some of the neatest handwriting in her class, says Tracy Cox, principal of Greenbrier Christian Academy. "Anaya is a remarkable young lady. She does not let anything get in the way of doing what she has set out to do,” Cox said in a statement.

Even as an infant, Anaya seemed determined to beat the odds. According to The Virginian-Pilot, she couldn’t hold a pacifier, so she kept it in her mouth by cupping it with one arm. As a toddler, Anaya taught herself to hold a fork and play with building blocks. And by the age of 5, she stopped using a set of prosthetics she’d received as a toddler because they only slowed her down.

Today, Anaya “ties her shoes. She gets dressed by herself. She doesn't really need any assistance to do anything," her mother, Bianca Middleton, told CNN affiliate WTKR.

Anaya received a trophy and $1000 in prize money, and her school was given a gift certificate to buy educational materials. Learn more about her triumph in the video above, courtesy of Inside Edition.

[h/t The Virginian-Pilot]

Banner image courtesy of Greenbrier Christian Academy.

Scandal! 12 Camels Were Disqualified from a Saudi Arabia Beauty Contest Over Botox Allegations

Saudi Arabia’s central Riyadh Region has been roiled by an animal show scandal straight from a Christopher Guest film. As NPR reports, around a dozen camels were disqualified from a beauty contest at the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival because their handlers illegally plumped their features with Botox injections.

The month-long Camel Festival in Al Dhana, Saudi Arabia, runs through February 1, 2018, and features around 30,000 camels. The animals participate in races, an obedience competition, and a beauty contest. Nearly $57 million in prize money rides on these high-stakes events, and owners preen their prized steeds accordingly with massages, hairspray, and—as it turns out—banned cosmetic surgery procedures, according to The Telegraph.

Camels in the ungulate pageant are judged on whether they have long necks, enlarged lips and noses, a big head, and defined humps. The criteria evidently drove some owners to desperate measures: Shortly before the Camel Festival kicked off, officials discovered that a vet had been injecting some participating camels with botulism.

The vet is receiving heat, but he’s by no means the only competitor to use illegal tactics, according to United Arab Emirates-based newspaper The National. In addition to Botox injections and collagen fillers, some sneaky handlers darken their animals’ coats with oil, rely on hormone injections for enhanced muscularity, and stretch the camels' lips by hand to elongate their appearance. And while large facial features are considered desirable, large lobes aren’t, so the guilty vet’s humped charges also received ear reductions.

Officials can ban enhanced camels from entering future beauty competitions, and owners can face possible legal recourse for violating animal welfare laws. Some breeders have called for cheaters to face stronger punishments, like a fine, which is already applied to drug-enhanced racing camels. As for now, the 12 camels who went under the needle are now under the microscope.

[h/t NPR]

LEGO Wants to Turn Your Space-Themed Design Into a New Set

LEGO wants to turn your out-of-this-world brick design into a reality as part of a new contest calling for space exploration-themed concepts. The winning entry in the LEGO Moments in Space competition will be transformed into a real-life LEGO set that the company will give away as a promotional "gift with purchase" product.

As part of the contest, LEGO is inviting designers ages 13 and up to create what the company describes as “the ultimate space model." The design can be realistic or based on science fiction, as long as it follows a few important guidelines. The final assembled product must be made from around 300 basic pieces, and it can't be too big. It has to be able to fit on a 16-stud-by-16-stud LEGO baseplate inside one of the smaller LEGO boxes. The designs can feature stickers, but they have to be decals from old LEGO sets.

Participants can submit entries for the “LEGO Moments in Space” contest either in the form of digital renderings or photos of real-life projects through February 9, 2018. Fans can vote for the top 25 builds on the LEGO Ideas site, and then a special panel will select the grand-prize winner and 10 runner-ups. The results will be revealed to the public on March 2, 2018.

The winner will not only have the opportunity to see their design made into a real product in 2019, but will also receive a $250 online LEGO shopping spree and a curated collection of LEGO's previous "gift with purchase" sets. Get more information about entering the contest on the LEGO Ideas website.


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