Down syndrome didn't stop this girl from rocking her first softball game.

When 9-year-old Sophina Lindquist met the University of Nebraska at Kearney softball team, it was love at first sight.

The team was in Sophina's hometown of St. Cloud, Minnesota, for an away game and happened to stop at the Red Robin where Sophina and her family were eating.

She was immediately enamored with them, and apparently the feeling was mutual.


"We see this little blond girl in the lobby, and instantly there was a connection," recalls head coach Holly Carnes.

Sophina (in the red coat) with the team. All photos via Upworthy/Red Robin.

In fact, they liked her so much, they gave her a ball that the entire team had signed. Sophina promptly spent the rest of the day and the night cuddling with it.

It wasn't just Sophina's smile that won over the team. She exudes light and generosity even though she's had to deal with quite a lot for someone so young.

Before she was 5 months old, Sophina had six surgeries, including open-heart surgery. She was also diagnosed with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that can affect a person's mental and physical development.

However, none of these medical issues seem to have had any effect whatsoever on her strength of spirit.

"She’s tough as nails," says her mother, Connie.

"Children with special needs are just like all the other children who have strengths and weaknesses," Connie continues.

And some of Sophina's strengths are that she is extremely friendly and outgoing. She regularly bakes cookies for first responders in her hometown, and she knows almost all of them, in over 20 departments, by name.

That's also why Sophina was so determined to visit her new softball team friends — but unfortunately, her family couldn't afford to make the trip from Minnesota to Nebraska.

That's when Red Robin stepped in.

They were so taken with her story that the company decided to arrange for her to take a trip to see her favorite ladies in blue in action.  

Sophina on her way to Nebraska.

And she wasn't just going to see the last game of the season; Sophina was going to throw out the first pitch.  

The trip was a treat for the whole family, who had never been able to take a vacation together before then.

According to her mom, Sophina couldn't contain her excitement over getting to hang with her favorite players again. And, according to their coach, the UNK Lopers felt the same way.

"Oh my gosh, they have been talking about it all week," Carnes says.

When the reunion finally happened, it was quite the emotional explosion.

Sophina really got to feel like one of the team.

And, of course, throw out her very first ball in a college game.

It's likely to be a day she won't soon forget.

Sophina's disability isn't holding her back. She goes after her dreams at full speed.

"People can put children with Down syndrome into this square box, and there really is no square box for children with special needs," Connie explains.

Different levels of ability shouldn't separate one group of people from another. Differences can make us stronger, extraordinary individuals, and the more people who recognize that, the sooner that so-called "box" will disappear.

Learn more about Sophina's adventure with the UNK softball team here:

The tiny but mighty #1 fan

This company went above and beyond to reunite a softball team with their tiny but mighty #1 fan.

Posted by Upworthy on Thursday, May 17, 2018
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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

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The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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