ZEELAND, Mich. - A local fifth grader is telling everyone to 'just keep swimming' with the help of her 'lucky fin.'
10-year-old Haylee Allen is a student at New Groningen Elemnatry. She was born with a rare limb difference called Symbrachydactyly monodactyly, which means one of her hands has only one finger.
But her condition isn't holding her back. Allen says she loves to play soccer, ride horses, she even plays guitar.
“People said I couldn’t do much because I have one hand, but my mom says that I can do anything I want to,” Allen said.
Allen's teacher, Angela Lloydm says Symbrachydactyly is extremely rare.
“So it’s actually one out of 30,000 or 40,000 children who have this,” Lloyd said.
Despite Allen's rare condition, New Groningen Elementary is home to three students living with limb difference.
Allen is calling it her lucky fin, just like in the movie Finding Nemo. She tells her two friends who also have a 'lucky fin' that even though they might feel different at times, you just have to keep on swimming.
"I’m just trying to make sure that they know they can do anything they want to," Allen said.
Allen has become a role model for Quinn and Aneliece, a kindergartner and second grader who also have a limb difference. She gave away t-shirts, stuffed animals, and colorful bracelets courtesy of the Lucky Fin Project, a non-profit uniting families and people with limb differences.
Allen's teacher, Ms. Lloyd says in the 19 years she's been teaching, this is by far one of her favorite stories to cherish during her time in education.
"I think if more of society kind of saw this, that we would kind of have a happy, caring society," said Lloyd.
Teachers at New Groningen say Allen is always happy to help her two friends in at lunch and in the halls at school.