Hardly a handicap: Perham's Hawes competes, and succeeds, in sports with one arm

PERHAM, Minn. - Craig Hawes built an adjustable prosthetic socket for two reasons. One is made of fiberglass and hangs from his right shoulder. The other is less obvious, but just as practical.

PERHAM, Minn. - Craig Hawes built an adjustable prosthetic socket for two reasons. One is made of fiberglass and hangs from his right shoulder. The other is less obvious, but just as practical.

"Like most things, I wish I had two hands, but I don't, so oh, well, deal with it," he said. "I can't do anything about not having an arm, so I might as well try and do something about it to make it as comfortable as possible.

"And I needed a science project."

Hawes lives in Ottertail, Minn., attends school in Perham and operates in the middle of wanting to make a difference and having to do his homework, between thriving and functioning.

Hawes went out for the tennis team in seventh grade because he seemed better suited for one-handed backhands - "That's all I hit," he joked - than home-run cuts or behind-the-back dribbles. This season he has a 2-6 record as Perham's No. 2 singles player and has qualified for the Minnesota Class 1A, Section 8 doubles tournament Wednesday in Park Rapids.


He also ran cross country, ranks fifth in his graduating class with a 3.96 grade-point average and is one of the brightest minds on the school's renowned science and research team.

He joined the group two years ago at the insistence of a former teacher, who would mark returned tests with recruiting pitches. His first project, generating mechanical energy from magnets, didn't work. His second, an adjustable prosthetic socket, can't lose.

The design, which is about the size of a short shirt sleeve, is made of square plastic links and held together by zip ties, won awards from the Patent and Trademark Office Society, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and the Minnesota Academy of Science State Fair. Hawes earned scholarships, a weeklong trip to Phoenix and a job-shadowing opportunity. He was interviewed by Newsweek.

His is a success story.

Hawes was born without a right arm, probably because of genetics; dad, Loren, is missing some fingers and a cousin a foot. He has been wearing a prosthetic since the age of 8 months and now controls the device with the precision of a marionette, opening the hook, bending the elbow with shoulder movements that are almost undetectable. Insurance covers one replacement per year or one fewer than ideal for a growing boy - by symbolic coincidence, Hawes sports a wristwatch on his prosthetic arm - hence the science project.

Hawes' first attempt at creating an adjustable socket, the piece that connects the prosthetic to the body, was made of metal chain link and hose clamps and constructed in his dad's workshop. It fit and functioned well, but was too heavy - a concept largely unfamiliar to Hawes.

His mom, Barb, remembers only one incident - during the fall of fifth grade - that ever made him "depressed about his arm. He broke two (prosthetics) in a week and then he didn't have one and he couldn't play football."

By all accounts, Hawes is smart (he'll study engineering at North Dakota State), funny (he cut up graduation rehearsal with a question about shaking with the right hand, taking the diploma with the left) and athletic (gym teacher Mike Peterson often forgot about the missing limb). Hawes has enough going for and against him - menial tasks like cutting food can be difficult - that he doesn't need the additional challenges of organized sport.



"With his academics and preparing for life, that can get pretty heavy," Yellowjackets tennis coach Terry Grzybowski said. "I think sport is a very simple outlet. The ball comes over the net, you see the ball, you hit the ball. ... I think that's a good outlet when life crowds in too much."

Of course, it's not always that simple for Hawes. Serving requires he become a cross between magician David Blaine and Minnesotan and former tennis pro David Wheaton.

With ball and racquet in his left hand, he tosses high above his head, makes a slight grip adjustment and swings through in a slicing motion. After all these years, the juggling act comes naturally for Hawes.

Said his mom: "He's done the best he can with what he's had - which has been pretty good."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Terry Vandrovec at (701) 241-5548

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