We meet so many extraordinary people each year. Sofia Call is definitely one of those people. Sofia and her family are neighbors of Mindy Hesterly, the coordinator of iCan Bike Springfield, MO for the host organization the Down Syndrome Group of the Ozarks (DSAGO). Mindy’s son Riley has Down syndrome and enrolled in the camp to learn how to ride a bicycle.
When Melinda, Sofia’s mother, heard that Mindy was recruiting volunteers for the bike camp she signed up to be a spotter. Melinda thought it seemed like a neat concept and was interested in seeing how iCan Bike works. By the way, Melinda said she got quite the workout as a spotter. Thank you Melinda!
When Melinda explained to her 7-year old daughter, Sofia, what she was going to do, Sofia asked if she could help. She also wanted to see Riley learn how to ride a bike so they could ride around their neighborhood together. Melinda knew Sofia wasn’t old enough to be a spotter but Mindy said that she would love for Sofia to be a ‘water and snack girl’ while Melinda worked as a spotter. That plan changed the minute Melinda and Sofia met Cody, the 9-year old rider with Down syndrome and Autism they were assigned to work with for the week.
According to Cody’s mom Sandy “Cody can be extremely strong willed and requires a lot of motivation to do something he isn’t willing to do. Because the bike camp was quite physical Cody wanted to quit riding after a very short time. Sofia wouldn’t hear of it! Together with her mom they came up with motivators like counting magnets, encouragement, running alongside Cody with praise and smiles galore. Cody relates best to young people and worked extra hard to please Sofia. She would start the morning off by coloring with Cody and telling him how awesome he was.”
Melinda and her husband Don are both teachers so Sofia has been around students with disabilities all of her life. “We have always explained to her that all people have differences and those should be embraced. Sofia doesn’t see people as having disabilities….. she sees them as people. She treats all people with respect and dignity. My hope is that she will always have this mentality. I hope Sofia will be the student in class who is inclusive of all students, teaching others by example.”
When asked how she liked bike camp, Sofia said ”my favorite part of last week was helping Cody because even though he has a disability, he is just a regular kid like me.”
Melinda and Sofia originally only planned on volunteering Monday through Wednesday, but after they met Cody, they couldn’t let him down. Melinda had to smile when she overheard Sofia telling someone at camp “We couldn’t just come for a day or two. You either do the whole week or don’t come at all!” Melinda quickly realized the value of being part of ‘Team Cody’ for the entire week so they came each day, celebrating with Cody, his family and all of iCan Bike Springfield, MO on Friday.
Melinda said that during the bike camp week Sofia got to see some ‘walking angels’. She tells us that one child at the camp was unable to purchase his own bike. She immediately put the request on her Facebook page. One of her friends gave her money to go buy a bike for the child. Sofia picked out the bike and as they were walking out of the store, a man heard them talking to the cashier about iCan Bike and why they were buying the bike. The man approached Melinda and Sofia handing them $20 and said, “Put this toward whatever the camp needs.” Melinda says that for her 7-year old daughter to be able to see a stranger ‘pay it forward’ is very powerful. She knows it made an impression on Sofia and really touched Melinda’s spirit as well.
Cody’s mom said “Sofia puts the shine in your sunshine logo! She absolutely touched my heart. Sofia had a smile on her face the entire camp and Cody lit up for her!!!”
Thank you Sofia for being awesome, for touching Cody’s life and for lending a hand in your community. As you start second grade this year at a new school in a new city, we wish you nothing but the very best. We hope you live a life of service to others, always shining your bright light to lead the way. It truly is amazing what one person can do to help make the world a better place. Thank you Sofia!
Melinda and Sofia had volunteered for Relay for Life in the past but said that volunteering at the iCan Bike camp was a new experience for them, one they won’t forget and will definitely repeat. Melinda and Sofia plan to return to iCan Bike Springfield, MO next summer to help other children learn to ride a bike. Now that they live in St. Louis, MO they will also look into volunteering at our iCan Bike camps there as well.
One more thing Sofia, have fun riding bikes in your neighborhood with Riley.
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