CORYDON, Iowa -- The Turnbulls have had to figure out a lot of things when it comes to caring for their daughter, Stella. The 12-year-old was born with the children's version of ALS and she was only given a month to live. So, when she told her parents she wanted to show goats, it was just one more challenge to overcome.
“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,” said Sarah, her mother.
The solution was a platform next to her motorized wheelchair for the goat to put its front legs on. While Stella can’t groom or feed her goat, Lou, she had to train her to use the platform and walk with her.
“Stella had to work a lot with her out on our farm to make sure that Lou was in good position and had to practice for being out in the ring,” said Sarah.
Stella has had early success, winning her first competition at the Southern Iowa Fair. Her parents say they were just happy she was there.
“To see her out there on her own doing something she loves to do is priceless. 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,” said Travis, her father.
But not everyone was as supportive. After Stella’s win, her parents received an anonymous letter suggesting Stella didn’t do enough work to show a goat, and that her parents should be “ashamed.” But it was one particular line that upset the family the most.
“It said, ‘you need to quit trying to make your daughter normal,’ 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,” said Travis.
The family says they don’t want to dwell on the letter, saying they want to focus on motivating others who might have a disability.
"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,'" said Sarah.
On Sunday, Stella showed her goat at the Wayne County Fair and plans to show at other fairs in the future.