Mike and Alivia Rochon adopted Jude from an orphanage in Shanghai, China, after being directed to him by a special needs group. As soon as they saw him, they knew he was their son.
Jude was born without a hand and part of his forearm. He knows how to get along impressively without the limb, but certain simple activities require a lot of effort for Jude.
“Some things may take him longer or he does them differently – he figures out a way,” Alivia said. “He’s the most determined kid I have met in my life.”
However, as Jude entered first grade and was bullied for his missing limb, his parents were determined to find a way to help. They started researching prosthetics soon after, and ended up providentially getting connected to Dr. Chi of Oregon Health & Science.
Dr. Chi works as a trauma surgeon in his work week, but in his free time he works to make a difference for those born without limbs by crafting low-cost prosthetics, especially for children.
A prosthetic limb can cost up to $100,000, and many families are forced to figure out how to afford one for their ever-growing child, or if to get one at all. Three years ago, Dr. Chi was challenged by a mother to create a cheaper, more reasonable and efficient alternative for prosthetics, and he took her up on her challenge.
“Children are growing so quickly, so it doesn’t make sense to build them expensive prosthetic devices and replace them every year,” he said.
Dr. Chi figured out how to use the technology of a 3D printer to create cheap prosthetics, costing at most $50. However, the non-profit organization he works with, Enabling the Future, helps decrease even that fee. Free directions for the assemblage of a prosthetic are available on the organization’s website. Through this, anyone with access to a 3D printer has access to a prosthetic.
When Dr. Chi heard of Jude, he was eager to help. He crafted two prosthetics for him pro bono – both in orange and black as a tribute to Jude’s favorite sports team, the Oregon State Beavers. One defaults to an open hand and the other to a closed hand. It will take Jude a while to become fully accustomed to his new hand, but he is already capable of sending his mom emojis from his phone. In eighteen months, Dr. Chi will make Jude a new, bigger set of prosthetics.
With these new hands, Jude will be able to do things with ease that were difficult before, such as writing, playing sports, and riding on his new scooter, which was gifted him by OHSU.
Jude thanked the doctor with an OSU baseball cap and rode off on his scooter, gripping the handlebars with both hands and a new sense of freedom.
Monday morning, dozens of kindergarten students at Rosa Parks Elementary were lovingly gifted their first ever bicycle, just in time for the warm weather. As soon as the students entered the classroom, their tired faces transformed to exude their excitement.
David Yandell, Portland native, recognizes the importance of helping one’s own community in any way possible. He has long been raising money for the Portland community, raising over a hundred thousand dollars in the past twenty years. One of his self-given jobs is to organize bike donations every year, this year inspiring James Meyer, local architect, to donate and distribute.
Meyer recognized the gift of a bike to be a gift of joy to a child who may not get the same chance without such a donation. “There’s something about it, it’s an equalizer, [a bike] puts you into a group, an opportunity to putz around at the park, ride around with others, and make friends…There’s something about a new bike that has a certain simplicity.”
He saw that this simplicity grows community and creates friendship through unifying activities. Bicycles help cultivate active out-of-door summers, which many parents wish their children could have. Meyer further emphasized the joy which he gained through the donation and the importance of seeking out opportunities to impact other’s lives. He encouraged any capable parties to do likewise.
This gift of bikes has the great potential of leading to a summer of joy in community.
Will Koenig honored his mother, Kara Larson, by giving to the community what she gave to him: the ability to join together to partake in America’s greatest pastime, baseball.
“She also kind of made sure baseball was a big part of my life,” said Will.
Before cancer claimed her life last year, Kara taught Will to love baseball, not only as a sport, but as a way to build comradery. She left in him the importance of community and the desire to give back in any way possible.
“When she passed, instead of people sending flowers, we asked people to donate money to the Wilshire Riverside Little League, and they raised about $7,000,” said John, Kara’s husband.
Now Will wants to do his part in carrying on her memory through their shared passion. He converted a school project into a full-scale nonprofit organization.
“Change-Up Uganda is a nonprofit organization that is sending baseball gear and money over to kids in Uganda,” explains Will.
In this organization, he managed to maintain his mother’s love of baseball, desire to give back, and work to build a stronger community. He even managed to name the organization with a pun to relate the sentiment:
“Change up, like you’re changing up a place, and change up is a pitch in baseball,” he said.
She changed his life, and now it’s his turn to change others’.
Thanks to her 13-year-old son, Kara Larson’s memory lives on in every baseball game in Uganda.
To support Change-Up Uganda, please visit their GoFundMe Page.