By DANNY DAY
Special to CNNW
SALEM — Dawson Riverman was born without fingers on his left hand, and growing up, it was always his dream to have the same athletic opportunities as others. Now with a custom-made 3D-printed left hand, Dawson has those opportunities, and many more.
On March 18, at Corban University, Dawson was given the chance to experience what it is like to be a Warrior baseball player.
“When Dawson was born without fingers on his left hand, it was a complete surprise,” said Dawson’s mother, Dawn. “We tried for a few years to help his fingers grow, and I even thought about giving him my toes, but ultimately, the doctors said that would not work.”
One in 1,000 infants is born with missing fingers, and others lose fingers and hands to injury, a New York Times study found.
`“We continued to let Dawson know that God makes every single one of us special, and Dawson is one of his children,” said Dawn.
Dawson’s love for sports began at a young age, as he enjoys soccer, basketball, and baseball. Constantly looking for ways to give Dawson, who is now 13 years old and attends Life Christian School in Aloha, the opportunity to play these sports, the Rivermans met Corban University’s David Sanford.
Sanford put the family in touch with some connections he has, ultimately getting the family in touch with the non-profit organization E-Nable (enablingthefuture.org).
E-Nable, with a growing network across the nation, matches children like Dawson in need of prosthetic hands and fingers with volunteers able to make them the hands on 3D printers. Incredibly, the designs can be downloaded into these 3D-printing machines for no charge, and members who create new models simply share their software plans freely with others.
When E-Nable finished printing the hand for Dawson, it was an immediate hit.
Ever since originally being connected with Corban, Dawson’s new dream was to be able to hang out with the Corban University Warrior baseball team. When Head Coach Jeff McKay heard about Dawson, he invited the young man to join the Warriors for their first official home game of the season on March 18.
The day with the Warriors was one Dawson would never forget. After having lunch on campus, he headed to the Warrior Athletics’ offices where he met McKay and staff. One of the first items of business was to sign his official Letter of Intent with the Warriors. Then, he got to tour the offices, see his name on Corban’s recruiting board, before getting a tour of Warrior Field prior to warming up for the game against the George Fox University Bruins. Taking part in stretching activities, ball shagging, playing catch, batting practice, and team meetings, Dawson experienced the full extent of a Warrior pre-game warmup.
All this led up to the ceremonial first pitch. Dawson’s younger brother, Seth, who was able to take part in these pregame activities as well, received a special opportunity from Dawson. Dawson handed Seth the ball before the game, letting Seth know this was his big moment. Seth fired in toward home plate, throwing a sizzling strike that brought the Warrior fans in attendance to their feet.
“Our players and coaches gave of themselves, but also were inspired by Dawson and how he and his family handle his challenge,” said McKay. “I believe God is honored in his heart by his courage.”
Throughout the game, Dawson got to hang out in the dugout with the Warriors, watching as Corban jumped out to a big lead early and held on for an 11-8 victory over George Fox. Afterward, all players and coaches on the team signed gloves, balls, caps, jerseys, T-shirts, and left Dawson and his family with a lasting impression.
“I cannot put into words the way everyone made our family feel yesterday,” said Dawn. “We could never thank Corban and the baseball team enough for what they have done for our family.”
“It was awesome to be able to be with the Corban baseball team,” said Dawson. “It was a dream come true.”
Seeing what a 3D-printed hand can do for Dawson, he and his family raised enough money to buy a 3D printer themselves, and now their goal is to help make 3D-printed hands for people worldwide.
Writer Danny Day is sports information director at Corban University.