When Stella Turnbull announced to her parents that she wanted to show goats, they weren’t sure if they could make it happen.
When she was born, doctors gave Stella just one year to live. She had been diagnosed with ALS, which is extremely rare for children.
But now Stella is 12 years old, and has proven she won’t be held back by expectations.
“One thing we’ve learned about her is if there’s something she wants to do, we’ll try to help her to figure out how to make that happen,” Stella’s mom, Sarah Turnbull, said to WHO-TV.
So Stella’s family attached a platform to Stella’s motorized wheelchair so her goat, Lou, could stand on it and walk beside her during shows. From that day forward, Stella went right to work, training Lou to walk with the platform.
“Stella worked her goat to the best of her ability and had to practice at night so Lou would learn to walk with front feet on cart and so she didn’t run Lou over,” Turnbull wrote on Facebook.
Finally, the day came for Stella and Lou’s first competition at the Southern Iowa Fair. Her family was thrilled to support her, watching with excitement as their daughter competed.
“To see her out there on her own doing something she loves to do is priceless,” Stella’s father, Travis Turnbull, said. “She speaks with her eyes, and when she came out of there her eyes were bright and she was very proud, and it just makes us proud as parents.”
The day was made even sweeter when Stella took first place at her first competition.
But soon after the fair, the family received an anonymous letter in the mail accusing them of poor sportsmanship for letting Stella show Lou in the event.
The writer, who left the note unsigned, expressed disappointment and frustration that Stella’s parents would allow her to compete with the other children.
“If your child cannot care for an animal by his or her self then she didn’t have any business showing a goat claiming it was hers,” the writer said.
Stella’s family was stunned by the hurtful words. In addition to accusing them of helping their daughter too much, the note threatened to contact PETA, claiming that putting Lou on the platform somehow qualified as animal abuse.
“This is cruel and inhumane!”
The writer claimed that Stella competing was “unfair” to the other children who had worked to raise their own animals, incorrectly assuming that Stella had not worked hard to train Lou, even though she’d practiced quite a bit with her goat on her family’s farm.
“You should be ashamed!” the letter continued. “If your child can’t do something on her own, let it be!”
Although the family was hurt by the cruel note, Stella’s father Travis said it simply motivated the family to prove their daughter can do anything she wants to.
“It said, ‘you need to quit trying to make your daughter normal,'” Travis said, quoting the letter. “And what is normal? To us you need to just go out and do your best. If nothing else, it just motivates me even more to make sure she can do everything that everyone else can do.”
The Turnbulls also received an outpouring of support from their community and others who saw their story, as comments rolled in defending Stella and her parents.
Her family chose not to focus on the negative response, but instead decided to continue encouraging Stella to pursue her dreams.
The writer of the note sadly tried to rob a little girl, who had worked hard to train her animal, of the joy of winning — simply out of jealousy and ignorance.
While Stella may have to do things differently than other children her age, the 12-year-old was more than capable of working hard to prepare for the event, training her goat and enjoying the well-deserved success that she had rightfully earned.
Not letting the letter dictate her future, Stella went on to show her goat at the Wayne County Fair and plans to continue showing Lou in the future.
“We hope that the fact that she was able to do this just inspires others to not give up and being able to help others say ‘OK, we can do this,'” Sarah Turnbull said.
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