Bristol girl with birth defect designs shoes to benefit hospital that treated her

Street Stories

WARREN, R.I. (WPRI) — A Kickemuit middle-schooler from Bristol is defying the odds in hopes of making a difference in other children’s lives.

It all starts with Angela “Ela” Pirri’s love of soccer.

The 12-year-old has been playing since she was 4 years old.

“I don’t like running around, but I like the scoring aspect,” she explained. “I like hearing the ball hit the back of the net.”

But her days spent on the field didn’t come without perseverance.

“I have radial ray anomalies,” she explained. “I was born without radial bones and when I was little, they changed my index finger to my thumb.”

Ela has endured nine surgeries since she was born. It’s part of the reason why she wants to be an orthopedic surgeon when she grows up.

“One of my favorite people is Doctor [Peter] Water’s because I really like his job,” she said of a surgeon who treated her at Boston Children’s Hospital. “I always said I wanted to be that.”

Ela’s also an entrepreneur. In 2019, she and other patients at Boston Children’s Hospital developed their own sneaker designs that tell their stories.

“I told them the design I wanted, the colors I wanted to include in them and other stuff like that,” Ela recalled. “They asked me a bunch of questions like ‘what’s your favorite color?’ ‘what emoji reminds you of yourself?’ ‘what color represents happy and what color represents sad?'”

“I kind of showed them some sneakers I already had and I showed them I loved the pattern of how the of black and pink work together,” she continued. “I also liked how they used black spots and I’m an animal lover so it kind of reminds me of animals.”

The “Run for Good” project was made possible by a partnership between Saucony and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Whenever Ela looks at the pair of sneakers she designed, she said she always thinks “Wow, I did this.”

“It’s crazy to me,” she said. “I made these sneakers and people are buying them.”

Ela also designed two pairs of athletic shorts that are available for purchase, with 20% of all sales benefiting Boston Children’s Hospital.

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