Cheshire Man Spends Retirement Making Prosthetic Hands for Kids

Bruce O'Donnell of Cheshire Assembles a Prosthetic Hand at MakeHaven
Bruce O'Donnell of Cheshire Assembles a Prosthetic Hand at MakeHaven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Most people spend their retirement lying on a beach or traveling to exotic places, but not Bruce O’Donnell of Cheshire. He’s using his extra time to help kids in need become more independent.

O’Donnell is a member of MakeHaven, located on State Street in New Haven. The makerspace is a place where people come together to hone a variety of crafts. O’Donnell’s craft involves 3D printers and a little elbow grease.

“I’m using 3D printers to make prosthetic hands for little kids, basically three to six year olds,” he explained.

The hands take a few days to print.

“For each hand there’s about 35 different parts that have to be printed out,” O’Donnell explained.

He then spends another couple of days sanding the pieces and assembling them, ensuring they fit together.

The final product, called the Raptor Reloaded, is sent to the Hand Challenge in South Carolina, an organization run by middle school teacher Chris Craft.

“He coordinates getting them all together, tests them to make sure that they’re operable,” O’Donnell explained.

The Hand Challenge then sends the prosthetics to kids across the U.S. as well as in countries like India, Nigeria and Venezuela.

“You can basically just strap the thing on,” O’Donnell demonstrated. “They would need to have a wrist and part of the hand below the fingers.”

O’Donnell estimates the hands costs just $5 to make and says they help fill an under served gap.

“The big medical device makers really haven’t embraced this space because there’s no money in it,” he explained. “They’re not going to design a $10,000 hand for somebody who’s going to need it for about three or four months. The kids going to outgrow it.”

For O’Donnell, his new hobby allows him to serve a greater purpose.

“I worked in the financial industry on Wall Street for about 40 years, and this is kind of my way for doing something useful for the world,” he said.

A thousand schools, districts and people around the world are currently helping to make 3D printed hands for the Hand Challenge, which has given out 400 prosthetics to kids.

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