Heartwarming Photo of Woman and Toddler Proves You Don't Need Limbs For Hugging

Jessica Cox, the world's first armless pilot shared a hug with a toddler.

ByABC News
July 28, 2015, 3:36 PM
Re Pranke and her mom Karlyn drove six hours to meet Jessica Cox.
Re Pranke and her mom Karlyn drove six hours to meet Jessica Cox.
Courtesy Nick Spark

— -- An inspiring photo of RE Pranke, a 3-year-old girl who was born without arms, and Jessica Cox, the first-ever armless pilot, is proving to the world that you don't need your upper limbs to go in for a hug.

"It was amazing," mom Karlyn Pranke of St. Paul, Minnesota, told ABC News. "I'm just grateful that we had the opportunity to show everyone that it doesn't matter if you have arms or not, that you can do the same things as everyone else -- you just may have to do it a little differently.

"She [RE] loves hugs."

Pranke said she knew she wanted her daughter to meet Cox, a motivational speaker born without arms, since finding out during her 20th week of pregnancy that "RE" (short for Ruth Evelyn), would be born without arms as well.

"I started Googling stuff and coming across Jessica," Pranke said. "Ever since, it's been very inspirational to me that she has come as far as she has to overcome her disability -- and my daughter has always said, especially lately, 'I want arms, I want arms.'"

"I wanted her to see she doesn't have to have arms," she added. "I wanted her to see all the things Jessica can do."

After a few exchanges on Facebook, Pranke took a six-hour drive with RE to attend the July 24 premiere of "Right Footed," a documentary about Cox's journey as a public speaker, a pilot, a third-degree black belt, and an advocate for people with disabilities.

PHOTO: Jessica Cox is the world's first licensed armless pilot.
Jessica Cox is the world's first licensed armless pilot.

"I was surprised that they drove that distance to meet me," Cox said. "They wanted to meet me, hear my story, and show RE that she's not the only one. It was just as important I think for RE's mom to meet me and reassure her that her daughter is going to be just fine."

During their meeting, Cox spent some time with RE, her mother, and honored the toddler's only request.

"I did show her the airplane which was a wild moment for her," Cox said. "From the time she saw me, she asked 'Where's the airplane you fly?'"

Pranke said she was thrilled about RE's meeting with Cox, who even without arms, also skydives, swims, cycles, and drives, using only her feet.

"I thought it would be motivating for her -- showing that she can overcome your disability no matter what you are born with, or what you are born without," Pranke said. "You adapt to what you are given. She [RE] is able to do some feeding for herself and shes able to use an iPad like its nobody's business. She's able to pick things up with her feet and carry it under her chin while she walks.

"She's been saying since we got home, 'She's just like me. She doesn't have arms.'

During their encounter, a photo was snapped of the pair while hugging, a moment that Cox said, proved to be very rewarding.

"The top question I get as a speaker is 'How do you hug?,'" she said. "That picture clearly showed that you don't need arms to embrace someone. "It was special that we could feel the same, mutual feeling -- what a hug is without arms.

"When I meet a child without arms, it feels like I'm giving back," Cox added. "It's that feeling of 'Oh, I'm going to be OK. I'm going to be able do everything this woman did,' is what I'm giving back to RE and other children. It's saying 'I'm going to be just fine.'"

Pranke said she's been keeping in touch with Cox, who has been providing her with support, including tips on how RE can strengthen her balance as she gets older.