Were you at Magic Kingdom yesterday?” the complete stranger asked Amy Siesel. “Did you post a pic to The Lucky Fin Project?”
Amy stood, mouth gaping, wondering why this unknown lady addressed her in such familiar fashion.
Then, she showed Amy her arm.
Both Amy and her soon-to-be friend, Judy, were born with limb differences.
The End of Isolation
A medical anomaly, nerve bundles on Amy’s spine do not work. As a result, the muscle on the right side of her back did not form in utero, leaving it completely atrophied. Amy’s right arm is underdeveloped, missing a hand, wrist and forearm.
Amy spent her entire childhood knowing only one other person with this kind of medical anomaly.
“Into adulthood, I didn’t know anybody with an arm like mine,” Amy said. “I was the only one. It’s a very isolated life I’ve lived.”
But waiting to enter Disney’s Epcot in Orlando, Florida, Judy made Amy’s world a lot bigger.
Judy introduced Amy to The Lucky Fin Project, a non-profit that raises awareness and celebrates individuals born with limb differences. Named after the curious clown fish with a small fin in Disney’s “Finding Nemo,” The Lucky Fin Project serves as a support network for those with limb differences and their families.
Before parting, Judy and Amy exchanged phone numbers. That night, Judy texted Amy, asking her to check out The Lucky Fin Project’s Facebook page.
“It was overwhelming,” Amy remembered. “All of a sudden, I was on this Facebook page with thousands of people with limbs like mine. I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t look at it. I couldn’t open the page again for two more weeks. It was so emotional for me. I had no idea all these people existed.”
But Judy didn’t let Amy go. She invited Amy to a Lucky Fin meet-up in Orlando. Hesitant at first, Amy shared with her husband, Billy, her jitters about going to the meet-up. He recognized the value in connecting with other Lucky Fin participants, and so Amy decided to attend.
There, she met Joseph.
The Hug Seen ’Round the World
The toddler held tight to his mom. As she walked up to him, Joseph immediately noticed Amy’s arm looked like his own.
“I put out my arm, and he began to look at his and looked back at mine,” Amy said. “He looked back at his again and then back at mine. You could see the wheels turning in his head and him putting together that we had something in common.”
Joseph’s mom sat him on the ground so he could properly greet Amy. She asked Joseph for a fist bump. Joseph obliged, but then he gave so much more.
“I turned to Billy and asked him to get out my cell phone and take a video of us fist bumping,” Amy remembered. “I thought it would be cute. Billy turned on the camera, and I asked Joseph for another fist bump, and this time he just waddled over to me and melted into my arms. There was a recognition and a clear understanding that we were the same. My heart almost exploded. It was the sweetest moment.”
Joseph wanted to keep on hugging — and Billy got it all on video.
Posting the video on The Lucky Fin Project’s Facebook page caused it to go viral. “Good Day Orlando” and “People Magazine” both featured Amy and Joseph’s precious moment, bringing The Lucky Fin Project, and Amy, national attention.
In addition, Amy received invitations to share her story with elementary, middle and high school students in her area. She addresses bullying and teaches students how to be world-changers by lovingly interacting with those who are different.
“It’s been a battle, but I’ve come to accept that this is how God designed me,” Amy said. “God says, ‘Yeah, I’ll use that one for my glory.’ If I impact the kids at the preschool or the elementary school, and they teach their children to be loving and kind, they change the world. The interaction with me changes the heart and how that person sees the world.”
Taking Amy from her life of isolation, God placed her on a public platform, surrounded her with her Lucky Fin community and gave her the opportunity to teach others to see beauty in our differences.
Amy’s far-reaching impact implies maybe it’s not such a small world after all.