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Young girl becomes inspiration to softball team


Team walks into restaurant; Sophina walks into their lives
By Molly Stern

When UNK softball traveled to St. Cloud, Minnesota, Feb. 23-25, they did not expect to meet a new life-long friend and fan. Sophina Lindquist is an 8-year-old little girl from St. Cloud who has recently become an inspiration to the Lopers.

Sophina is a perfect example for “the only disability in life is a bad attitude.” She has down syndrome but continually lives her life with a smile on her face, a smile that is contagious to everyone she meets.

The UNK softball team met Sophina while at dinner on one of the nights in St. Cloud. “It feels like we were meant to meet Sophina and her mom,” Head softball coach Holly Carnes said. “We had plans to eat at another restaurant, but last minute decided to eat at the restaurant Sophina was at and immediately connected with her.”

Not only does Sophina inspire people with her infectious smile, she has also started her own foundation, Sophina’s Sunshine Cookies, to help support and connect with local police, fire and emergency departments. “We began handing out cookies to these local heroes after there were multiple shootings around St. Cloud in 2014,” Sophina’s mom, Connie Lindquist said. “After that, Sophina was hooked, and we still continue to hand out cookies and meals to various stations.”

Sophina and these fire, police, and emergency crews have created such a connection, that, in addition to handing out cookies and smiles, she also prays for each and every firefighter, police officer and emergency personnel that she has met. “We probably pray for over 850 names, but I haven’t counted in a while,” Lindquist said. “But there are literally hundreds that we don’t have written down that we still pray for.”

Along with hanging out with the girls that night at dinner, Sophina also stopped by to watch them play at the Kelly Laas Invitational the next day, as well as accompany them to lunch.

“Sophina absolutely loved meeting the UNK softball team because she thrives with lots of people and loves sports,” Lindquist said. “She had never seen a softball game until she watched the team, though, and she absolutely loved it.”

Sophina is now a huge inspiration and motivation for the UNK softball team. “She may have been dealt a harder hand in life, but the fact that she is so little and still has accomplished so much is amazing to me,” Carnes said. “She has had a huge impact on other people and now our team.”

While visiting with Sophina in St. Cloud, the team signed a softball as a keepsake for her. “Sophina immediately put the ball they signed for her on the top of her dresser,” Lindquist said. “It is the only thing that is not related to all of the men and women she prays for.”

The distance between St. Cloud and Kearney is not going to stop the UNK softball team and Sophina from staying connected. “We will keep sending pictures and videos to her mom,” said Carnes. “I also told Connie that every year when we travel to St. Cloud we will meet up with them and hopefully spend the day catching up and laughing and smiling.”

Connie also has plans to keep in touch with the Loper softball team. “Sophina would absolutely love to see the Lopers again and we have even talked about maybe making a trip to Kearney to visit this summer or next fall,” Lindquist said.

Sports can take people to amazing places and introduce them to some amazing people. The Lopers now have another fan cheering them on, and Sophina has 25 new friends.

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