The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Greetings to everyone in western Illinois. From time to time I run across something enterest'n worthy of share'n with readers. Consequently I'm include'n this story on Stephanie Aves as told by her grand Uncle Don Ellingson in 2007. I hope you enjoy it for encouragement when things don't go your way.
It has been said that when fate deals you lemons your only option is to make lemonade. That's wonderful advice, but most people instead turn to self-pity. That reaction is typical, logical, and understandable, but it certainly doesn't make ones life better. An example of making good lemonade and something that could be, and should be, an inspiration to many is the story of a seventeen year-old girl from Poplar Grove, Illinois by the name of Stephanie Aves.
When she was three years old she lost her right arm in a tragic farm accident. (Even so, they said it could have been worse. If it had been one inch different she might have instantly bled to death.) But still, being a right handed little girl and then losing your right arm, that's tragic enough. How she has dealt with it is the story.
As a three year-old and still possessing a right arm and hand, whenever asked how old she was she would hold up three fingers on her right hand and say, "Three years old".
The accident happened at night in northern Illinois and she was, that same night, flown by helicopter to a Madison, Wisconsin hospital. The next morning, in the hospital, a nurse asked her how old she was. She immediately held up three fingers on her left hand. Shocking? It was to the family and the nurse, but it was also inspirational to all that this little girl had the personality and emotional make-up to maybe and hopefully meet the challenges of the future. It hasn't been easy.
There have been numerous trips to Shriner's Hospital in Chicago for repair work on the four inch stub that was left and even some chest injuries that were a result of the accident. Through it all she has persevered and moved forward.
She possesses a great love of animals, but also, school activities such as sports, public speaking, and F.F.A. When she became old enough for girl's little league she persuaded her family to let her join a team. (It should be noted here that her family has always been supportive of her ambitions and desires.) When she tried to join little league only one coach was willing to accept her and his decision was that she could only play the outfield. So she did. However, when the little girl that was playing second base didn't do very well Stephanie then got her chance there.
The season was successful for the team, as they were one of the best teams in the league. At the end of the season they were playing for the championship. In the last inning they were behind but had runners on base.
It was Stephanie's turn to bat and surprisingly the coach did not substitute. He let Stephanie bat. As a one armed player she stood on the right side of the plate and batted with her left arm across her body. I don't know if this would be proper form, but she hit a triple and won the game.
Stephanie also played basketball in grade school. It isn't easy catching a basketball in one arm or hand and then shooting with the same hand. She wasn't the best player on the team, but she wasn't the poorest either.
When the school year was over, one of the coaches in the district put on a clinic for all the area grade school girls that wished to participate. After a week of instructions and practice when Saturday came, all the parents were invited to the gym to see what their daughters had accomplished.
The coach had the girls line up at one end of the gym and then one at a time they would dribble two basketballs, one with each hand the length of the gym. When it became Stephanie's turn, she began dribbling one ball and then the coach dropped a second ball in front of her and she continued dribbling two balls with one hand. The entire group of parents applauded.
In high school she limited her sports involvement to cheerleading, partly because of her love of animals, showing, and F.F.A.
From the time she was big enough and old enough she has been enchanted by the show ring. She has won showmanship at 4-H shows, F.F.A. shows, county fairs, state fairs, State Holstein Show, and even World Dairy Expo. This does not mean that she has never been beaten, but it has been rarely.
One of Stephanie's greatest accomplishments was winning, in 2005, the Fitting and Showing contest for her age group at the World Dairy Expo in Madison. That she did great in the showing phase of it is not surprising after all the competing and winning she had done. But, when they tie long-haired, unclipped animals to a trailer and then give you a limited time to clip that animal to show-ring readiness how can you possibly do that with only one arm.
To most people it would be a stopper and they would not even try. To Stephanie it was just another challenge.
When she was old enough for kindergarten, she heard that the teacher had said everyone must be able to tie their own shoestrings before they attend her class. Even at her young age she wondered if the teacher had never heard of Velcro, but then she sat down on the sofa at home and did not move until she had mastered tying her shoestrings with one hand.
Another time while showing, a young judge criticized her because her animal was a little high in the back. He said she should squeeze the back down. Her reply was that it was impossible with only one arm. Not sympathetic, he said she should figure out a way. She did. She put the lead strap under her chin, squeezed the back down, and then went back to leading.
This time at the Expo, after body clipping the animal with one hand, she then proceeded to set the topline, which is standard show-ring preparation today.
(For people not familiar with clipping dairy animals for the show-ring, I will explain. The entire animal is body clipped, making them appear more refined and dairy like.
That is, all except the topline the entire length of the animal. The topline, an inch or two wide, is not clipped, but left with long hair.
Then it is sprinkled, or powdered, with an adhesive hair powder which can be activated with heat from a hair dryer. The procedure is to brush forward with a small hairbrush with one hand while heating it with a hair dryer in the other hand. This procedure makes the hair stand on end like a human "flat top".
Following this, one can take a clipper and carefully clip the topline like a "flat top" so the animal appears to have been born with a perfectly straight topline. Some are born that way and some are not, but this makes them all look their very best just like humans go to a beauty parlor to look their very best.)
To the amazement of the people watching, but to the simplistic approach of Stephanie, she tucked the hair dryer under her chin and proceeded as though that was the standard procedure. When all was done she had excelled. She was the winner!
To some people, sympathy maybe entered into the judging. I did not think that was the case. For verification I talked to Katie DeBruin, superintendent of the contest, who observed it all. Her comment was, "Stephanie not only showed adeptness at handling the clipper and dryer, but also, her animal was definitely the best fitted in the contest".
But this is not the end of Stephanie's accomplishments. Following the accident and loss of her right arm the court awarded a sizable settlement.
Because of her love of good animals and her love of the show-ring, Stephanie has used some of the money to purchase an animal of the quality that could help her achieve her goal. One would have to say she has succeeded.
In 2006 her yearling Red Holstein was Jr. Champion of the Eastern National at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. And then Jr. Champion at the Central National at Madison, Wisconsin.
Two different national shows, two different judges, but the same animal and the same girl at the halter.
But there's still more. At the end of the 2006 show season, one magazine that specializes in picturing the winners at the top national shows of all the dairy breeds voted her the "Top Female Showman of the Year".
This proves you don't need two arms to be successful. It surely makes it easier, but the important things are determination, ambition, good work ethics, and somewhere in your family the source of inheritance for all the above.
I forget to mention that Stephanie evidently has the personality and emotional makeup for making good lemonade from lemons dealt to her. She has been quoted as saying, "If people can't accept me the way I am, that's their problem. I'm okay with the way I am".
Wouldn't it be nice if we all had this ability to make lemonade? It could become the nations number one, best drink.
Keep on Smile'n
Catch ya Later