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Missouri Girl Advocates Limb Difference Acceptance With Glitter-Shooting Prosthetic

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
"We as a family have committed to Born Just Right as an organization, and supporting Jordan as long as she wants to continue to advocate for herself and her community," says Jen Reeves (left).

When Jordan Reeves was born, her mother was the first to notice something was different.

Jordan's mother Jen performed the typical finger-toe count moms do on their newborns and came up five digits short. The baby was missing the bottom half of her left arm, which stopped just after the humerus.

Amidst the chaos of the discovery, Jen and her husband found peace.

“I looked up at my husband, and he looked back down, and he agreed she’s okay,” Jen says. “And I swear we clicked, the eye connection between the two of us, and we just knew. She’s gonna be okay.”

That day eleven years ago marked the beginning of a lifetime of advocacy for Jordan and Jen, who recently spoke to Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up To Date.

“I made sure in my mind that I would make a point of giving her any opportunity I could,” Jen says. “I launched the crusade the day she was born.”

The crusade turned into a nonprofit called Born Just Right, which advocates for limb difference acceptance.

“What I didn’t expect is that not only would she be strong, but she’s turning into quite the advocate of her own,” Jen says.

At just eleven years old, Jordan has given a TEDx talk, created a petitionto make American Girl dolls with limb differences and even pitched an invention on national TV to Shark Tank judges.

Credit Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
"It’s really cool to see what had started from something not so amazing into something really cool," Jordan says of her prosthetic invention.

Jordan’s invention is a purple prosthetic arm in the shape of a unicorn horn. Its most impressive feature?

“It shoots glitter,” Jordan beams.

"We have a rule: Glitter outside," Jen chimes in.

The prosthetic arm is 3D-printed. Jordan was paired with design mentor Sam Hobish, who helped her in weekly Google Hangout sessions.

“Usually kids don’t find design as an interesting thing. They usually find it as something boring,” Jordan says. “But I’m showing that design can be fun and interesting.”

Her invention drew praise from Shark Tank judge and owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, after she pitched her idea on the Rachael Ray Show.

“The fact that these really famous people thought something that I had made was cool was really cool,” Jordan says.

Part of Born Just Right’s mission is to encourage others to turn their differences into something positive.

“I feel like design is a wonderful gift to people in the disability community. I know this by watching Jordan,” Jen says. “If you live in the disability community, you are already a problem solver, and you see design flaws in a way that a typical body cannot see.”

That problem-solving nature kicks in when she notices people staring at her arm. To foster open conversation about physical differences, she has created several T-shirts.

“One says, 'Don’t Stare, Just Ask,'" Jordan says. “I have another shirt that says ‘Celebrate the Unicorns,’ which means that you should celebrate the differences in life.”

Credit Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Jordan, who lives with her mom in Columbia, Missouri, is developing an arm that allows her to do push-ups to help gain upper-body strength.

Her petition to American Girl for adding dolls with limb differences has garnered more than 25,000 signatures.

“My idea is that kids would go to American Girl and they would see dolls with a limb difference, then more kids would know what a limb difference is,” Jordan says. “They said 'Maybe.'”

Jordan has mentored young and old, teaching people skills she uses every day like how to tie shoes with one hand.

“When they’re like ‘Oh, I can’t do it,’ and they finally get it, they’re so happy,” Jordan says.

She is currently writing an autobiography and has a literary agent. Her mom is in talks with a publisher.

“We’ve written a lot of it already,” Jordan says. “My mom’s been helping me, too.”

“You were saying that it’s not a book about you, it’s a book about what?” Jen prompts.

“Our journey,” Jordan answers.

When she's not writing her book, working on inventions or coming up with new ways to promote limb difference acceptance, Jordan enjoys basketball, softball, CrossFit — activities which at first glance require two hands.

"If there is someone who’s saying ‘can’t,’ I say, ‘Step back and watch, and give her a chance to learn,'" Jen says. "By saying ‘can’t,’ that’s setting limitations that she’s proven don’t exist."
Hitting a softball can be a bit tricky with just one hand to hold the bat. But, Jordan’s physical differences don’t stop her giving her fullest effort.

“I can make it go far, if I believe in myself,” Jordan says.

You can listen to Jen and Jordan Reeves' full conversation with Steve Kraske here.

Marleah Campbell is an intern at KCUR's 'Up to Date.' You can reach her at marleahcampbell@gmail.com.