Sky's The Limb-it

March 16, 2016

Story courtesy of UCF News & Information

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ten-year-old Julianna Linton heard one clear message when she visited the University of Central Florida on Wednesday: There are no limits if you want something bad enough.

Julianna is missing her left arm above the elbow because of a congenital amputation caused by amniotic band syndrome. But that hasn’t stopped her from tumbling and doing one-handed cartwheels. The cheerleader took a break from her competitive cheerleading schedule to visit UCF with her family for a surprise.

The Houston, Texas native became the 15th child to receive a 3-D printed bionic arm from Limbitless Solutions, the non-profit student group based at the university. The group builds custom-made arms and then gives them to children at no cost to their families. They also work with community partners to make the deliveries memorable and to emphasize the message that there are no limits.

“We want children to know, especially girls, that there are no limits,” said Albert Manero, founder of the group and an aerospace engineering student pursuing his Ph.D. at the university. “We want them to dream big and then go after it. That’s really important. You can be smart, beautiful and strong and do it all here at UCF.”

UCF’s cheerleading team, led by head coach Linda Gooch, helped deliver the arm and the message when they met Julianna and her family on campus. They led Julianna on a campus tour that concluded at the College of Engineering and Computer Science, home to eight members of the cheerleading squad. Several of the cheerleaders are pursuing mechanical, civil, aerospace and computer science degrees.

Knightro, the UCF mascot, brought out a box that contained Julianna’s new arm along with two pom-poms.

“We are so honored to be part of this day,” Gooch said. “Limbitless Solutions is amazing and we couldn’t wait for today to see Julianna, show her a little bit of our school pride and have her share her talents with us. I can’t wait to get her out on the field.”

After practicing with her new arm, the cheerleaders led her to Bright House Networks Stadium where they held a cheer clinic just for her. Julianna joined the national award-winning team in several cheers and stunts including cartwheels and a handstand with her new arm. She was also thrown in the air a few times alongside the college cheerleaders. The cheerleading team under Gooch has placed in the top 10 of the College Cheerleading National Championships 21 times in the past 23 years. This year the team was runner-up at the championships.

“My favorite part was getting the arm today,” she said taking a break from the stunts. “I think It will help me with my cheering. I love to fly.”

A group of cheerleaders clapped and cheered Julianna on as she did more than 20 cartwheels across the stadium field.

“Way to go,” said Jay Hollman as he watched her complete student after stunt. Coach Gooch teased some of her squad that Julianna had better form in some instances.

Even Limbitless founder Manero got into the act when Julianna coached him before some of the cheerleaders lifted him into the air.

Julianna’s parents, Clark and Kathleen Linton, watched while sister, Alyssa, took pictures of her all day.

“If there are 10,000 things someone with two arms can do, Julianna can already do 9,900,” said Clark Linton. “We’ve always focused on what she can do, not what she can’t. I think this new arm will give her the opportunity to do even more. The technology is advancing so rapidly, Julianna has a chance to grow with the technology that may help her later on in life and won’t limit her career opportunities.”

Several members of the Limbitless team watched and helped the tween adjust to her new arm. Like the cheerleaders, they also delivered the message of having it all. Several of Limbitless volunteers are women, including the electronics director for the team. Team members have interned with NASA, SpaceX and more, while others have part-time jobs with local engineering firms as they continue to work toward their degrees.

Limbitless Solutions launched as a volunteer student group in 2014 when it delivered its first arm to then 6-year-old Alex Pring. The team provided several more children with arms, and then in 2015 Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr. partnered with Limbitless to deliver Alex a new arm – an Iron Man themed 2.0 version. Downey taped the surprise delivery and posted it on his Facebook page. Since then, hundreds of emails with requests for help have flooded the team’s mailboxes. There are more than 500 families who have applied to the program for an arm. One of those families was Julianna’s.

“As a nonprofit we rely on the community to be able to continue our work,” Manero said. “There is such a big need. We had no idea when we started what kind of need exists. We want to help as many children as possible so they can grow up and know there are no limits.”

Photos by Eric DeSalvo and UCF News & Information