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
More
True
Red Robin
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
LUSH

Handmade cosmetics company Lush is putting its money where its mouth is and taking a bold step for climate change action.

On September 20 in the U.S. and September 27 in Canada, Lush will shut the doors of its 250 shops, e-commerce sites, manufacturing facilities, and headquarters for a day, in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike taking place around the world. Lush is encouraging its 5000+ employees "to join this critical movement and take a stand until global leaders are forced to face the climate crisis and enact change."

Keep Reading Show less
Planet
Photo by Annie Bolin on Unsplash

Recent tragic mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have sparked a lot of conversation and action on the state level over the issue of gun control. But none may be as encouraging as the most recent one, in which 145 CEOs signed a letter urging the U.S. Senate to take action at their level.

Keep Reading Show less
popular