All Hands on Deck for a Global Impact


Across the world, thousands embrace the challenge of life without one or both hands. Hands not present because of unexpected accidents, disease, birth abnormalities, land mines, war, and more. They may experience life without a hand from birth or all of a sudden in an unexpected life event. Many have learned to care for self in innovative ways and with the support of family and friends, but nothing is quite like having the opportunity to grasp that cup, write that letter, or feed a child with one’s ability.

On October 12, 2018, the lives of 75 people with hand amputations began to change as physical therapy students across the United States came together to assemble LN-4 prosthetic hands. The common overarching mission to transform and empower lives through movement brought together four organizations to offer over 300 students at the APTA National Student Conclave (NSC) an amazing night of empowerment, transformation, and difference-making. The organizations included ATI Physical Therapy (ATI), the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Move Together (the parent organization of Global PT Day of Service), and the Ellen Meadows Prosthetic Hand Foundation. The Foundation takes the assembled hands and with volunteers assesses the need and provides a free hand to people in developing countries around the world. They educate and empower the recipients on how to attach, detach, and use the hand compassionately assembled during this collective hand event at NSC.

The evening kicked off with an inspirational video capturing stories of men and women who were previous recipients of these prosthetic hands. The audience was captivated by these messages of hope and inspiration for the difference they can make with their own hands and hearts. And then the true experience came as they commenced working together to assemble the hands and design encouraging messages on the accompanying bags. The energy to partake in the hand event was overwhelming; exceeding the number of hands available for assembly. Yet eager students came pouring in, inspired by this opportunity to witness PT students from across the country united under a common goal to transform the life of another. Those observing soon found themselves to be participants as friendly faces welcomed and expanded their team to assist in the assembling of the prosthetic hands and the writing of heartfelt messages on the bags to the recipients of this gift.

The impact of the evening will ripple for years to come as people with amputations receive increased functionality, students’ hearts transform, and organizations expand collaborations. The prosthetic hand may be simple with three fixed fingers and two ratcheted fingers with a wrist release, but the increased functionality that differs for each brings so much more to life. Individuals find new ways to express themselves in writing and painting. These recipients have a sense of empowerment and a new found freedom to more directly live life: to eat, drink, move, and care for self. The joy and gratitude on the recipients’ faces are priceless and encouraging for all.

Physical therapy students also left the event full of smiles and chatter about the incredible opportunity be part of a global experience to give back and engage with a diverse group of fellow students across the country. The evening was in conjunction with Move Together’s Global PT Day of Service (PTDOS), so not only were NSC students assembling hands together, but they were also joining thousands across the US and world in service.

Global PTDOS, established in 2015, encourages people across the physiotherapy profession and beyond to come together on one day to share their hands, hearts, and smiles to make a sustainable difference in communities around the world. The 2018 PTDOS theme was transform, and this collaborative hand event was nothing shy of transformation. The students felt the transformation to come in the life of the person receiving the hand. The PT students too were transformed as they recognized a new passion for orthopedics, the desire to further engage in sustainable service, or an affirmation of the ‘why’ behind the sacrifices to obtain a doctorate in physical therapy. The evening was just the beginning of the impact and transformation in the lives of students, hand recipients, and communities across the globe.

The overwhelming interest and success of the Hand Event exemplified the truth behind we are better together. The event’s success came from the leaning in of ATI, APTA, and Move Together. Collectively, all three organizations mission focuses on empowering people with increased access to quality rehabilitation medicine for a healthier community and world. Each organization advances the mission in a unique way, and together the uniqueness exponentially multiplies for a grander impact.

Thanks to ATI Physical Therapy for sponsoring and organizing the Global PTDOS Hand Event at NSC!
Thanks to APTA for providing space in the conference center and helping host the event!
Thanks to everyone, most especially the students, for embracing the moment to transform lives in conjunction with Move Together’s Global PT Day of Service!

Please share below in the comments section your stories of impact, participants, hand recipients, and those reading and listening to the story. We look forward to future collaborations and hearing the rippling effect of your experience with the NSC Global PTDOS Hand Event!

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