Bradley Goloski, mouth agape, stared down at his left arm on Friday as he bent his elbow and the fingers on his blue prosthetic hand clenched into a fist. His parents stood wordless nearby, with tears in their eyes, watching their son try out his new limb.
“Cool or what?” the maker, John “Jack” Longo, 71, asked the 5-year-old in the monster truck T-shirt.
“Yeah,” Bradley said, distracted by the prosthetic arm and an adoring crowd of family, friends and sales associates at the North Annapolis Home Depot.
He was born without the hand due to amniotic band syndrome, a prenatal condition.
The prosthetic is one of about 120 that Longo, a hardware sales associate who lives in Crownsville, has fabricated and donated to children and adults with missing hands and limbs over the past year and a half.
The Home Depot, which sells Dremel tools, started stocking Dremel 3-D printers about 2 ½ years ago. The company sends the store spools of plastic filament to be used for in-store demonstrations — mainly to make chess pieces, dinosaurs, frogs and other children’s toys.
“If we weren’t running this machine, (people) wouldn’t know what it was,” Longo said. “They’d think it’s a microwave oven. By keeping it building something, they realize it is a 3-D printer.”
When Longo heard about e-NABLE, an online community that connects volunteers with 3-D printers to people in need of prosthetics, he was fascinated.
He got permission from Dremel and the Home Depot store manager, downloaded the additional technology required and sent a test prosthetic to e-NABLE for the organization to review for quality.
“At Dremel, it is our goal to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to create. We are so touched to hear Bradley’s story and honored that one of our 3-D printers has helped make an immeasurable difference in his life,” Saad Alam, head of product development at Dremel, said in a statement.
“Learning how our products are being used to impact others is what sparks us to keep innovating and pushes us as a company.”
A representative from e-NABLE could not be reached for comment Friday.
The printed prosthetics drew customer enthusiasm — and sales. Customers bought 43 of the printers in six months, Longo said.
“Sales jumped,” he said. “It does build stuff other than toys. It’ll build literally anything you program into it.”
Most of the donations were sent off to e-NABLE for distribution, so Longo and his Home Depot colleagues didn’t get to see the reactions of the recipients.
Getting to watch Bradley try on the arm was special, store manager Laura Gibson said.
“To know it came from an item I carry in the building means so much,” she said.
Paula Franks and her husband, Peter, of Annapolis, friends of Bradley’s grandparents, shop at the store on Defense Highway so much they joke that they basically live there.
The couple had never never met Bradley. But the Frankses had seen his grandparents’ pictures of him. When they learned about Longo’s project, they knew they had to connect the two.
Trailed by parents and other eager onlookers, Bradley and his 3-year-old sister, Emma, bounded down the hardware aisle Friday afternoon like the Home Depot was Disney World.
He’d come in two weeks earlier to be fitted for the prosthetic.
The color was non-negotiable: It needed to match Thomas the Tank Engine (a vivid metallic-looking blue.) It did.
“We tried to steer him to Orioles colors, but he wanted the blue,” Paula Franks said.
Longo took the prosthetic from the box and fitted it to Bradley’s arm, tightening the Velcro straps around his left bicep.
As his family and store employees watched with phone cameras trained on him, Bradley tested the new hand, picking up a cup, a few Matchbox toy cars and his sister’s pink Croc sandal.
His parents, Tommy and Cory Goloski, of Queen Anne’s County, gazed at their son and marveled at the everyday activities the new hand would make easier for him: riding a bike, swinging on a swing, lining up the tracks for his train set.
Longo gave them instructions for the prosthetic, a few extra accessories and a chip with the 3-D specifications on it, which they can use to print another one. It also can be printed bigger, so they can make new ones as Bradley grows up.
Tom Goloski, Bradley and Emma’s grandfather, choked up as he was introduced to Longo. The 66-year-old Annapolis man bypassed a handshake to give him a hug.
“I can’t thank you enough,” he said.