The first time Anthony Bacchus met Jamarion Styles, the then 11-year-old Styles had jumped off his bicycle, darted into Delray Beach’s Milagro Center toward the communal drum set, picked up a pair of sticks and started jamming.
That was two years ago, when Bacchus, teen leadership director at Milagro Center, an after-school arts program in South Florida, was charmed and captivated by the talented young drummer with upper limb amputations, and dedicated his efforts to securing Styles a pair of prosthetic arms.
On Monday afternoon, Bacchus reached that goal.
Two students from the University of Florida’s GRiP program — a club that creates and donates three-dimensional printed prostheses to people with upper limb differences — delivered and strapped prosthetic limbs onto Styles at the Milagro Center.
“I nearly fainted when I heard Jamarion would get new arms for free,” Bacchus said.
Styles was given two types of prostheses, printed in Gainesville using GRiP’s grant funding: a prosthetic arm and assisted devices with drumsticks attached.
Styles, now 13, developed a rare bacterial infection when he was 8 months old that forced the amputation of his right arm just below the shoulder blade and his left arm just below the elbow.
The shy teenager has blossomed even without the use of his arms — he plays the drums, mixes hip-hop beats on a Milagro Center computer and plays wide receiver in football competition with friends.
Styles isn’t sure he’ll use the prosthetic arms all that often, he modestly said Monday while editing a video for his personal YouTube video blog on a Milagro Center computer before he received the prosthetic devices. He’s apparently done well without them.
He had prosthetic arms when he was a toddler, but they were too heavy to use, he said.
But Styles was appreciative of the holiday gift.
“Mr. Anthony’s been working on this since Day One,” he said. “Not many people would do that for someone.”
Styles was an “indoor” person before joining the Milagro Center, he said. “My mom didn’t let me do anything.”
He broke out of his shell at the Milagro Center, Bacchus said.
“This boy was always upbeat and filled with heart,” he said.
It was at the Milagro Center that Styles studied drumming briefly under volunteer Corey Jones, who was shot and killed more than a year ago by a former Palm Beach Gardens police officer who now faces charges in the slaying.
“When I heard (about Styles), I said I got to be there. I got to see this for myself,” said Clinton Jones Sr., Corey Jones’ father, who was among the crowd of more than 20 at the Milagro Center on Monday. “I thank God we taught (Corey) how to share his gift with others.”
Jones shared a spirit and passion for drumming with Styles, Bacchus said.
“I saw the same thing in Jamarion that I saw in Corey Jones,” he said.
While Styles is passionate about drumming — a hobby that started with lessons at his church, as did Jones’ — the Eagles Landing Middle School student wants to play football professionally when he grows up.
“I won’t use (the prosthetic arms) though,” he said, met with encouragement and slaps on the back from his pals at the Milagro Center.
He grips the ball against his chest when he plays.
“I can do it,” Styles said.
That’s the message Bacchus and his team at the Milagro Center aim to instill in every student. The nonprofit center offers music and art classes, taught by volunteers and contracted teachers, to lower income families in the Delray Beach area.
Bacchus made the connection to the University of Florida’s prosthetics lab on a field trip with Milagro Center students to Hacklab, an engineering and creation warehouse in Boynton Beach.
Someone at the lab told him to contact Jessica Bergau, a senior at the University of Florida and founder of GRiP. Bergau and Myles Marcus, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, created Styles’ prostheses.
“We found out he was an avid drum player, and we figured that was something we could potentially help him with even though he’s already doing so much,” Bergau said. “We figured with whatever technology we had, we can make it that much better.”
Along with the prostheses, Styles also was invited to participate in a summer camp for children and teens with upper limb differences in Starke, Bacchus said.
“He’s going to meet people in the same situation as him,” Bacchus said. “He’s going to learn about new technology and new tools that will help him reach his full potential.”
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