A Portland-area teen can now use his left hand thanks to 3D printed hand technology from e-NABLE, a network of volunteers dedicated to helping kids get prosthetic hands.

Dawson Riverman, 13, was born without fingers on his left hand. Growing up Riverman questioned why he was different. The pain of having to answer those questions led his mother, Dawn Riverman, through a multiple year journey of trying to find a way for him to use his hand like other kids.

“At about five years old, he came into my room and says, ‘Mom, I want a hand like everyone else. Why won’t God make my hand grow?’” Dawn said. “What do you tell a five-year-old? I sat on the floor and cried with him.”

Thanks to e-NABLE, the family got in touch with a Washington couple who makes 3D printed hands. Dawson got his first hand six months ago and is now on his second.

The company is actually a growing group of over 1500 volunteers.

e-NABLE 3D printed hands help childrenDescribing themselves on their website as “engineers, artists, makers, students, parents, occupational thereapists prosthetists, garage tinkerers, designers, teachers, creatives, philanthropists, writers and many others,” the group dedicates their “free time” to the designing and building of the assistive hand devices for those in need.

Their most recent innovation uses electrical impulses from the bicep muscle to open and close the hand. The hands can be downloaded and 3D printed for less than $50 in materials.

The designs are open source allowing anybody anywhere to download and create the hands for people who need them and so that others can improve the designs and share with the world in a “Pay It Forward” kind of way.

The Riverman family is specifically jumping on board with helping the organization as they team up with Life Christian school of Aloha. The schools hopes to get a 3D printer so that students can make the hands and give them to children around the world on their annual mission trips.

“It’s a great opportunity for Dawson to turn this disability into a profound strength that has a big impact on his world,” said Life Christian School principal Angie Taylor.

Anyone who would like to help in Dawson’s effort can donate through Life Christian School. There are many ways to get involved with e-NABLE.

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Katrina Aman is an aspiring journalist who desires to be a person of positive influence. Particularly passionate about poverty alleviation and civil rights, she hopes her writing takes her where she can improve lives.