Jordan Reeves’ face lights up when she talks about “Finding Nemo,” remembering how she met the cast of the musical at Disney World last year.
“I wore a Nemo-looking dress,” said Jordan, age 11. “It looked like a clown fish, just like Nemo. And, here’s my fin!”
Jordan points to her own “lucky fin,” a left arm that stops just before the elbow. Just like Nemo, she might have to work a little bit harder since she was born with only one hand, but that doesn’t stop her.
She is an innovator who gained fame for a glitter-shooting prosthetic, a CrossFit athlete, a musician, a Girl Scout and an advocate for young children with limb differences.
Just last week, Jordan presented her 3D inventions to the judges of the popular TV show “Shark Tank” on “The Rachael Ray Show.” Businessman Mark Cuban even told Reeves that she was a superhero.
“She’s a force to be reckoned with, one arm or two” her mom, Jen Reeves, said. “It doesn’t matter.”
‘Where’s her hand?’
When Jen Reeves’ second child was born, she instantly knew something was wrong.
“Oh my gosh, where’s her hand?” Jen remembers asking.
The doctors looked down at the newborn girl, Jordan, whose left arm stopped just above her elbow.
“Oh … she’s fine,” Jen remembers the doctors saying. “No, really. It’s fine.”
Jen recalls looking up at her husband, Randy, and in an odd moment of peace in the chaos, she knew things were going to be OK.
They learned that Jordan was born with a limb difference; the exact reason why this happens to some kids is unknown. It could have been a sign of another health problem, but for Jordan, it just meant a left arm that stops after the humerus.
“I mourned for the kid I thought I was getting, but I got a totally upgraded version,” Jen said.
Jen started blogging about her struggles and successes raising Jordan with only one arm. Her blog, called “Born Just Right,” gained thousands of followers over the years and Jen Reeves is now in the process of creating a non-profit.
Jen has shared stories about Jordan’s trips to Chicago to help design her prosthetic arm, the struggles of raising a child on social media, and different camps where Jordan has learned new tips and tricks.
One camp close to Jordan’s heart is Camp No Limits. It’s a place for children with limb differences to learn, grow and build confidence. Jordan has attended the camp every year since she was 3 years old.
“I love seeing old faces and new ones,” Jordan said. “And seeing the community grow and grow. I remember when it was just this tiny thing and now it’s huge. It’s awesome.”
The camp is where Jordan learned how to tie her shoes when she was a little girl, and it’s a place she loves to go back to each year to mentor younger kids.
“At first they are like, ‘Oh, this is so hard,'” Jordan said. “But then when they actually get it, I love to see the joy on their faces. I like teaching people stuff.”
Jordan’s accomplishments didn’t come without struggle.
“We celebrate being different, but it’s still hard,” Jen said. “The first time she cried, and it might have been the last time, about not having two hands, it was important for me to not try to cover it up and tell her she can’t feel that way. She’s allowed to be sad, but I’m super proud of her and I’m excited about the things she can do or be.”
One thing Jordan has learned to the deal with over the years is people staring. Both Jen and Jordan admit sometimes it does get frustrating, but they use it as an opportunity to educate people about limb differences.
“If they are staring, I’ll say ‘Don’t stare, just ask.’ I actually have a shirt that says that,” Jordan explained. “I want them to come up and ask me. I want them to know that it’s OK. It’s not a bad thing. We all find our own way to do stuff.”
Celebrate being different
Finding her own way to succeed is exactly what Jordan has done. Recently, she designed a push-up arm to help her exercise; she brought it to life with a 3D printer.
“Born Just Right” gave her the platform to jumpstart her dream career as a 3D designer after followers on social media invited Jordan to a limb difference camp in San Francisco.
Jordan went to KIDmob’s “Superhero Cyborgs” camp where they were tasked with creating an invention of their choice. Her glitter-shooting prosthetic arm, called “Project Unicorn,” went viral last year, and gave her the opportunity to work with a design partner weekly over Google Hangout to perfect and create new designs.
Her big ideas earned her an award at Disney World last year. The trip was complete with a chance to meet the cast of Disney’s “Finding Nemo The Musical,” a show close to Jordan’s heart because of her “lucky fin.”
Jordan is not slowing down now. Just a few weeks ago, she attended Kid Inventors’ Day at NYU where she showed off a brand new design combining her traditional prosthetic arm with 3D printed attachments.
“You can do anything as long as you try,” Jordan said.