Little kids are awesome. When you ask a 7-year-old what she wants to be when she grows up and the answer is a ballerina, a pastry chef, and an astronaut, it’s because she knows she can be all those things.
Second-grader Hailey Dawson is no different. She has shown she intends to take on the world, and I dare you to try and tell her she can’t. Her current goal is to throw the first pitch at every Major League Baseball ballpark. That’s a lofty goal for anyone, but especially for sweet Hailey.
Hailey was born with a condition called Poland Syndrome, a birth defect that results in the underdevelopment or absence of chest muscles on one side of the body and often, webbing of the fingers on the affected side. The right side is most commonly affected. Experts currently estimate that Poland Syndrome occurs once in every 10,000 to 100,000 live births.
Most people probably haven’t heard of this condition, but I have. I have a son with a malformed right hand. We adopted him from China when he was two, and the only thing we know is that his hand condition is due to a birth defect of unknown origin. We have very limited information on his medical history, so we’ve just pressed on with what we do know.
On his first visit to our pediatrician, the doctor examined our son’s hand and immediately checked under his shirt.
“I’m checking for signs of underdeveloped chest muscles, which would indicate he has Poland’s Syndrome,” the doctor explained.
As it turned out, our son’s chest was fine and they termed his limb difference as something called symbrachydactly. What a mouthful, right? We just call it his “little hand” and that works for us right now.
Like my son, Hailey Dawson is in second grade and also refers to her limb difference as her “little hand” or “special hand.” Also like my son, Hailey has never let her anatomy hold her back or slow her down. She is missing her pointer, middle, and ring fingers on her right hand but hasn’t let it stop her from learning to throw a baseball, play T-ball, and swim. As a mom of a limb difference kid, I can attest to the fact that absolutely nothing slows these kids down.
Hailey wears a robotic hand made with fishing line and 3D printer parts. Amazing, right? My son has a similar prosthetic, and I’m in awe of the simple functionality and what this technology can do to enhance the lives of kids with limb differences. Hailey’s hand was built by students and professors at the University of Las Vegas.
Hailey’s mother, photographer Yong Dawson, describes the first time she saw her daughter hold hands with her husband.
“You could always grasp onto her, but with the robotic hand, she was actually holding his hand back,” Dawson said in an interview with Today Parents.
Hailey’s first moment in the spotlight came two years ago when she threw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game. The Bleacher Report tweeted about her quest to throw first pitches at all MLB ballparks.
Since Hailey’s MLB debut with the Orioles, several other major league teams have stepped up to the plate to invite her to throw first pitch at their ballparks, including the Minnesota Twins, the Detroit Tigers, the New York Mets, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Seattle Mariners, and the Oakland A’s.
“To date, Hailey has been invited by 26 out of the 28 MLB teams,” Yong Dawson tells Babble.
If you’re curious about how a second grader came to have such a goal, it comes down to two things: the great American pastime being a family affair and the Guinness Book of World Records.
The Dawson’s are, by their own admission, a baseball family. Her dad is a coach, her brother plays and travels to games, and baseball is always on the television at their house.
Hailey’s initial first pitch was at UNLV, the university that built her robotic hand. After that, she asked if she could toss out a first pitch to the “Big Orioles.” The Orioles are her father’s favorite team. Hailey calls them the “Big Orioles” because her brother’s team is also called the Orioles.
“I told her that was kind of a tall order, but I’d see what we could do,” Hailey’s mother tells Babble.
Hailey’s older brother, a Guinness Book of World Records lover, voiced the “Is there a world record for that?” question — and the idea caught fire from there.
Looks to me like this young lady is going to be doing a lot of traveling in the future. Is throwing the first pitch at every MLB ballpark an unrealistic goal for a second-grader? Yes. Is Hailey Dawson going to meet this goal? Also, yes. I’d bet money on it.
We can all borrow a page out of Hailey’s book. She’s doing what many parents would tell their kids is an impossible task. She is moving forward with her plans because she believes she can. Don’t we all need a little more of that kind of determination? The answer is yes. The next time your child tells you she wants to be an astronaut, a princess, a pastry chef, or to throw the first pitch at a baseball game, think about Hailey Dawson before you dismiss her.
h/t: Today Parents