Cynthia Falardeau remembers her son Wyatt’s reaction the first time she told him about the 3-D printed arms being created by UCF’s Limbitless Solutions: enthusiastic joy. “I want one of these robot arms! That is super cool! How do I get one? I could ride a bike! I might even be able to paddle a kayak!”
Wyatt, whose arm and hand were amputated due to amniotic banding, was in fifth grade at the time and had, of course, learned to adapt to his missing limb. The family reached out to the UCF team and was lucky to get on a waiting list to receive a limb for Wyatt. The team designed a Blue Man Group-themed arm, which was presented to him by the group onstage during a show. Wyatt was fascinated with the technology and mechanisms that gave the arm its functionality and, with his new blue bionic arm, he became a celebrity among his friends. But the arm did more than suddenly catapult Wyatt into the spotlight.
“Receiving this arm was a turning point for me. Before 2015 [when I received the arm], I was a good kid but I was not an outstanding student like I am now,” says Wyatt. “The experience taught me how to overcome obstacles and knock down the barriers of my challenges.”
Cynthia says that the arm gave Wyatt hope to imagine who he could become. “He became so inspired in his academics that he earned the Silver President’s award for the highest academic gains in the entire fifth grade of his elementary school.”
Wyatt, who experienced developmental delays and was nonverbal until the age of 7, is now 18 and getting ready to enter his senior year of high school. He is in the top 10 percent of his class and plans to become an exceptional student education (ESE) teacher. He’s got a soft spot for UCF but is considering other local colleges too. He wants to make a difference in the lives of other children who experience challenges.
To say his family, friends and teachers are proud of him and what he has accomplished would be an understatement. “No one was prouder than his late grandmother,” says Cynthia. “She was over the moon [when he received his arm] and told Wyatt, ‘Now you can accomplish anything!’”
“Grandma told me how scared she was regarding my future [missing a hand and arm],” says Wyatt. “Limbitless gave her such hope for my future.”
Wyatt and his grandmother were very close and spoke several times a week about everything from politics to Broadway. In 2019 they saw Tony Bennett at the Hollywood Bowl together. “She loved Wyatt so much that she promised to take him to the Hollywood Bowl the following summer — to see Ozzy Osbourne,” says Cynthia.
When Wyatt’s beloved grandmother recently passed away, she chose to leave her legacy by including the organization in her will. “Limbitless is so appreciative for her gift and trust in Limbitless to pay it forward to more children,” says Albert Manero, ’12 ‘14MS ‘16PhD, Limbitless co-founder and CEO. “Our team will continue to empower children to reach for their big dreams with our support every step of the way. The team honors [her] memory in the smile of every bionic kid.” The gift will be instrumental in Limbitless’ efforts to scale the program to include adults’ bionic limbs, enabling a future to where the team can support children with limb differences through every growth spurt and milestone.
“Grandma believed that if you are born differently, you can still achieve great things — and organizations like Limbitless will help you get there,” says Wyatt.
This article appears in IMPACT: The Magazine of the UCF Foundation (Read more here.)