For the past year, 10-year-old Julian Reynoso has been learning to cope with life as a burn survivor after a DUI crash left the boy with burns over a large portion of his body and lacking all or parts of nine fingers.
“He couldn’t play with Legos, he couldn’t do all the simple things that I enjoyed in my childhood,” Ryan Kissinger, of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo College of Engineering, said in a statement.
It was a day like any other in April 2018 when Julian rode through Los Angeles in his family’s van with his parents Elizabeth Flores and Juan Reynoso, both 34, and siblings Emma and Sebastian, who were then 7 years old and 6 months old, respectively, according to the Los Angeles Times. But what started as a normal family outing quickly turned to tragedy when a drunk driver ran a red light at an intersection and crashed into the family’s vehicle.
The collision sent the van 25 feet before it caught fire, killing Julian’s father and siblings, according to Cal Poly. While his mother suffered from a torn bowel and collapsed lung, Julian spent four months at a pair of hospitals with burns over 85 percent of his body, the college said.
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Just months after the accident, Kissinger learned of Julian’s condition through Quality of Life Plus, an organization that connects students with people who have physical disabilities. With that, Kissinger assembled a team of eight students – they call themselves Hands for Julian – to create motorized, prosthetic hands for the 10 year old.
“More than anything else, aside from delivering something that helps him, we also hope to show that there are people out there in the world that are willing to fight to try to make sure he can actually have a better future,” student Austin Conrad said in a statement.
Kissinger and Conrad visited Julian recently to fit him with the prosthetic hands. Photos showed the trio smiling and laughing as Julian showed off his impressive motor skills, according to the Times.
“This is not engineering for engineering’s sake,” Conrad told the publication, days before the team presents the finished product to Julian on Saturday. “We don’t want to build a faster race car. This is an attempt to restore order to chaos.”
Through it all, Kissinger said he’s impressed with Julian’s attitude.
“He’s very charismatic,” he said in a statement. “Maybe it’s some testament to the human spirit about people’s ability to press on in spite of tragedy. When he was here, he was playing on his Nintendo Switch, and he was cracking jokes.”