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Roane County family helps Argentina family make 3D printed hands for kids

Two families from different parts of the world are joining forces to help kids. Joe and Carla Ross from Roane County and the Cabreras from Argentina are using 3D printers to create hands for children who were born without them. (WCHS/WVAH)

Two families, from different parts of the world, came together this past weekend in hopes of helping children who are missing limbs.

Joe Ross is a Roane County native who is no stranger to helping others. He is the Roane County Long-Term Flood Recovery Group chairman and has spent the past year helping people rebuild flood-ruined homes.

Joe and his wife Carla Ross are joining forces with a family from Argentina to help children who are missing either hands or part of an arm.

Ross said on Saturday,

"In the U.S., if a child loses their hand, they're going to get a prosthetic . . . they will," Ross said Saturday. "In Argentina, not so."

The Rosses met 18-year-old Geronima Cabrera and his father William by chance, while vacationing in Mexcio last year.

When they learned about the Cabreras' plan to create hands for children with 3D printers the Rosses knew they had to help.

"They spent 17 hours getting here to come up and get these three printers," Ross said.

The Cabreras said Argentina's trade law made it too difficult to have the 3D printers shipped to them. It was easier for Ross to buy the printers and the Cabreras travel to the United States to get them, so that is what they did.

The Cabreras have already helped children in Argentina, but they needed more and bigger printers, to help more.

Each part of the hand is created separately. It takes 24 to 30 hours to create them all, depending on the size of the hand.

The hands must then be assembled by someone.

Geronima Cabrera said it makes a huge difference for kids.

"The children can hold objects, a glass of water," Cabrera said. "They can play."

Cabrera said the 3D printed hands aren't able to do as much as a prosthetic, but they are helpful. And to children who would otherwise never be able to afford a prosthetic, they are priceless.

"They are functional. But they are not like . . . the fingers don't move separately. A prosthetic hand will do that," Cabrera said.

Each printer cost about $700 to $1,000. The material to make each hand costs about $5, but they are completely free to the children.

While there is no profit to be made from the hands, these two families who may speak different languages are getting paid in a universal currency: gratitude.

"Very emotional for us, knowing that we helped," Cabrera said.

Ross said it has been a very rewarding experience.

"To be able to give something to somebody that will make them feel more whole, is the greatest gift. It's a gift to me," Ross said.

Ross plans to make hands here in the U.S. that will be used as transitional hands, until children can get a prosthetic.

He also hopes to eventually make the hands for veterans who have lost limbs in war and hopes that local colleges or high schools will get involved in making them.

But his biggest wish is to travel to countries all over the world and get people involved.


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