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The Year in Review: Heartwarming Stories

Here's a few tales from 2017 sure to make you smile.

Campus News  |  Dec 19, 2017  |  By Stacy Willis
Hailey Dawson and Maria Gerardi

Hailey Dawson, using a robotic hand created by UNLV engineering graduate student Maria Gerardi, threw out the first pitch in Game 4 of the World Series.

It’s that time of year – when we reflect on the stories that brought us through 2017. From one little girl’s mechanical hand that took her to the big leagues to scholarship recipients who have embraced the power of giving back, here are some of the year’s most heartwarming stories.

Hailey Goes to the World Series

Seven-year-old Hailey Dawson captured the hearts of a nation as she used her 3D-printed prosthetic hand to throw out the first pitch at Game 4 of the World Series between the L.A. Dodgers and Houston Astros. The hand was designed by UNLV engineering graduate student Maria Gerardi, and the department plans to continue helping kids who need similar prosthetic hands. “What I’ve learned here at UNLV,” Gerardi said, “is that anything is possible.”

New Med School Creates New Relationships

The new UNLV School of Medicine welcomed its inaugural class this year -- a milestone not only for the university, but for the entire Southern Nevada community. All of the 60 first-year students received full scholarships from generous donors. When med student Arturo Montes met his scholarship provider Randy Garcia, he found more than a donor – he found a mentor and a friend.

Finding a Support System Changed Her Life

De’Liza Dulatre-Galamidi lost family members, faced poverty, and needed help. Longtime donor Christina Hixson’s scholarship program allowed her to stay in school and, perhaps more importantly, become a part of a supportive team of other scholarship recipients. Hixson says, “Extraordinary things can be done by ordinary people. You just have to give them the opportunity.”

Determined to Help Himself and Others

As a soldier, single father and student, Lee Scholar Kristian Que faced a lot of challenges. But when he won an award for his work in economics, he didn’t keep the prize money. “UNLV has given me so many opportunities, I decided I would give it back as a way to show my gratitude.”  

Different, Daring, Diverse: A Program for All Intellects

Scott Linker’s daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, but Linker didn’t want to give up on her education. In fact, he donated seed money for a fledgling UNLV program that helps students on the autism spectrum pursue an education. “If it weren’t for (Linker), we might not be here,” says the director of the growing Project FOCUS program.

Crowdfunding Smiles

The Hispanic Dental Student Association raised money through Rebel Raiser crowdfunding. The result? A trip to Bolivia where they changed the lives of impoverished kids by fixing their teeth.