Every girl needs a best friend, and Sara Davis and Bella DiDiana are thick as thieves.
They have their secret hand pumps and hip thrusts. They makes jokes with each other and snap at each other. Both love to sing and dance. Sara is the youngest of four children, Bella the youngest of five.
They have each other’s backs. If someone talks down to the other, that person is going to hear about it. Way down at the bottom of the list is the fact that both 12-year-old girls were born with Down Syndrome.
“My daughter is a pretty cool kid,” says Marcy Davis, Sara’s mom. “Bella and Sara are like any other typical pre-teens. It might take them twice as long to learn something, but they eventually get it.”
During a phone interview with a reporter, Sara’s older sister can be heard yelling in the background: “SARA IS JUST LIKE ANY OTHER GIRL.”
This weekend, this dynamic duo from Darien are headed to Bloomington for the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games. The girls both won gold medals in the regionals qualifying them for the state's Summer Games, where they will swim in four separate events.
“Sara won a gold medal swimming against adult women who were six feet tall,” Davis said. “She was just so tiny and fast. Sara is a fish, she loves to compete. She likes to be involved and win like any other kid.”
When the girls were babies, the families shared a mutual babysitter named Courtney.
“I was pregnant with Sara when Courtney told me of another family in Darien who had a daughter with Down Syndrome,” Davis said. “Both girls had feeding tubes and Courtney could handle that. She was very capable taking care of our girls.”
Feeding tubes weren’t the only thing that Bella and Sara shared. Both girls had open heart surgeries, not uncommon among children with Down Syndrome.
“As soon as both girls got healthy we got them together for play dates,” said Lisa DiDiana, Bella’s mother. “Their friendship was instant.”
The girls went to the same preschool, and enrolled in the same activities. Not only did a friendship evolve between Bella and Sara, their families bonded as well.
“Lisa and I can count on each other for anything,” Davis said. “Our older kids are the same age. Our 15-year-old son is close to Bella’s older siblings. They have bonded over having Sara and Bella in their lives.”
What impresses both moms is how the girls watch out for each other.
“If Bella has to have a blood test, Sara would rather it be her,” Davis said. “If I yell at Sara, Bella tells me not to yell at her.”
“It’s fun watching them hang out with each other,” DiDiana says. “It’s a true friendship. They really are truly best friends.”
Bella is known as the “Mayor of Hillcrest School” in Downers Grove, where she spends part of the day in a contained classroom and attends regular classes in the afternoon. Bella recently fearlessly performed in her school’s talent show and brought down the house.
Sara had a similar “star is born moment” at her public school in Darien, belting out the theme song from the movie “Frozen.” Their moms say both girls receive tremendous support from their classmates and friends.
“I have never done anything different with Sara than I did with my other kids,” Davis said. “She has the same rules, chores and expectations. The world is not made up of children with Down Syndrome.”
Fortunately the two besties won’t have to compete against each other this weekend. Instead, they are on the same four-member, swim relay team. Even if they don’t win the gold, they will be brave in the attempt.
“We love each other,” Bella said.