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CHLA’s CATCH Luncheon Shows Children With ‘Hand Differences’ They Can Do Anything

Jonny Maldonado (right) meets fellow CATCH member Ezra Frech.

Posted: Monday, May 11, 2015 – 3:47 PM

More than 200 guests, including 50 Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) patient families, attended the sixth annual CATCH (Center for Achievement of Teens and Children with Hand Differences) picnic Saturday, May 2 at the Saban Research Building courtyard.

CATCH is a CHLA  community for all children born with small, missing or weak arms, said  Nina Lightdale, M.D., director of CHLA’s Hand and Upper Extremity program. “The goal is to introduce children who have never met another child with a hand difference so they don’t feel alone. The annual gathering unites families and children with hand differences from all over L.A. County into a unique community where they can share experiences and support each other. “

This year’s celebration also included two inspirational speakers who shared their personal stories. 

• Tony Memmel, a singer-songwriter who was born missing his left forearm, demonstrated how a little ingenuity at age 13—taping a guitar pick to his partial left arm—allowed him to pursue a career in music.

• Nine-year-old Ezra Frech “inspired kids who think they can’t do things ‘normal kids’ do,” said Lightdale. “He is an example for kids with physical differences.”

Frech was born with a congenital anomaly that resulted in the amputation of his left leg and the relocation of his big toe to his hand to serve as a thumb on his left hand. Frech, who excels in basketball and track, was a 2014 Sports Illustrated SportsKid award nominee.

“What kid doesn’t want to run and jump and throw?” Frech said. “You can overcome anything that’s in your path. I know it because I did it.”

This year’s scholarships included three iPads to help with schoolwork and drum lessons for a music lover.

PEAK awards (Person of Extraordinary Achievement and Kindness) were given to fINdings Women’s project and Memmel.

USC Freehand presented three children with 3D printed hands and spoke with many families about the process of obtaining one. This new technology now only allows children to help design their new hands, but each prosthetic takes about six hours to print and costs under $50.

Entertainment included live music, an animal balloon artist and a face painter. Arts and crafts were provided by The Art of Elysium and Marvel Comics donated comic books.

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