The parents of a daughter living with motor neurone disease have been left shocked after receiving an anonymous letter demanding they stop "trying to make [their] child normal.”
Sarah and Travis Turnbull received the letter after their 12-year-old daughter Stella, who was born with the children's version of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease - won her first goat showing competition at the Southern Iowa Fair in the US.
Stella uses a motorised wheelchair and is unable to lead her goat Lou with a traditional harness. Instead, she has a metal platform placed next to her chair for Lou to put his front paws on.
While Stella isn’t able to feed or groom Lou, she put a lot of extra work into training Lou to walk with only his back legs as she led him.
Sarah took to Facebook to share a photo of the letter, in which the anonymous author argued that Stella’s win was “unfair.”
"That is unfair to the kids who truly put in the work and effort to daily feed, walk, and groom their animals for a project," the letter read.
“Anyone can drag a goat or any animal when its head is chained to a metal hook! Peta will be contacted! This is cruel and inhumane!” it went on.
"This award was for the parents' glory! You should be ashamed!” the letter read.
Sarah rebuffed the claims in her post, writing, "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 [the] cart and so she didn’t run Lou over,"
"No goat will be calm and happy doing that unless it’s comfortable!" she added.
What is normal?
But the line that broke the family's heart came at the end of the note.
"Stop trying to make your daughter normal," the author wrote.
"What is normal?" Travis told WHO. "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."
“To see her out there on her own doing something she loves to do is priceless,” he went on.
“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.”
Instead of allowing one person's ignorance dishearten them, the family took their daughter to her second fair, and say that she plans to continue to compete.
In fact, they're hopeful that shining a light on this story will help "[inspire] others to never give up" and to "help others say 'OK, we can do this,'" Sarah wrote in another post on Facebook.
When Stella was born, she was only given a month to live. Since then she’s defied the odd, and when she told her parents that she wanted to show goats, they decided to “figure out how to to make that happen.”
Additional reporting by Hope Schreiber.
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