The Challenge: Fragile-X syndrome is a genetic condition on the autism spectrum that often leads to learning disabilities, cognitive impairment, and/or different types of anxiety and seizures.
The Solution: The Magic Arrows, a therapeutic game for children with Fragile-X syndrome, that focuses attention and reduces stress.
The Teen Hero Who’s Making This World A Better Place: Ben Moelis, who saw his dear friend’s suffering and decided he could design a fun way to face this obstacle.
Ben was always interested in engineering and game design. When his friend Justin was having difficulty transitioning between activities and managing seizures, Ben knew what he wanted to create. He got together friends, teachers, and even local businesses to help guide the project.
In July 2014, Ben got to show The Magic Arrows to the National Fragile-X Foundation (NFXF) Conference with 900 parents, doctors, and researchers watching. It was incredibly well received both clinically and by families dealing with this condition. Ben was thrilled with its success. Soon after, The Magic Arrows got a United States Patent, and the NFXF started making a computer version of the game.
Ben is currently studying at Duke University, where he’s majoring in Economics. He’s thrilled about the momentum of The Magic Arrows and so thankful to the Helen Diller Family Foundation. Ben won a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award for his innovative project.
We got to ask him a few questions about him and his work.
What’s your favorite video game?
Assassin’s Creed or Madden.
Your favorite song?
“Funny the Way It Is” by Dave Matthews or “Otherside” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Your favorite book?
“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand or the Harry Potter series.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Australia—awesome weather, awesome animals, the setting for “Nemo.”
How was your friend Justin treated in school? In social settings?
He is usually placed in environments with other special needs children, but when he’s with other people, everyone treats him wonderfully and he’s always got a smile on his face.
How did you decide on developing a game for people with Fragile X?
I decided it with my dad at the beginning of my junior year. This was when Justin’s dad mentioned his difficulty transitioning between one activity to another.
Who did you recruit to help you and how?
Hailey (his sister), J.D. Gebbia (his neighbor), and Sarah (my sister). I asked each one of them because I knew they all had a personal connection to Justin and could offer unique insights to the project.
What did it feel like when you presented The Magic Arrows at the NXFX conference?
Wonderful. The validation from experts and clinicians was very nice, but the heartwarming reactions from families who played with the game was even greater.
Who’s your biggest hero and why?
My grandpa. Despite a plethora of difficulties in his life, he just kept going and maintained an amazing outlook on life.
What’s next for The Magic Arrows?
I’m in the process of developing an app to be ready by summer of 2016.
Anything else you’d like to say about The Magic Arrows or your Tikkun Olam award?
Magic Arrows was and still is an incredible ride that I never knew would reach this point. The NFXF conference and the Tikkun Olam ceremony were very similar in that both validated my project’s success, but they also involved genuinely kind, giving people who embodied the meaning of community.
This post is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit www.dillerteenawards.org