LANCASTER, N.Y. (WIVB) — Josh Allen gets invited to a lot of events, and that includes the birthday party for 10 year-old Sophie Rittling. When the star quarterback realized he missed it, he wanted to surprise her in a special way.
Rittling has battled epilepsy since she was a baby, making daily life a challenge. Her older sister, Emma, 12, has always stepped up to support Sophie even writing a letter to make Sophie’s dream of meeting Josh Allen come true.
“I know that you are very busy and can’t attend every party you are invited to, but I had to try. Sophie means the world to me and I would do anything for her,” Emma Rittling’s letter read.
The two-page letter explained Sophie’s story and ultimately invited Allen to Sophie’s birthday party, which was appropriately ‘Josh Allen’ themed.
“I think this was her [Emma’s] way of saying, I have this sister who is really cool, but she also struggles. I think that was Emma’s way of acknowledging Sophie wanted something for herself,” Lauren Rittling, Sophie and Emma’s mother, told News 4.
Sophie’s battle with epilepsy began when she was 10 months old, after she contracted a fever. She spent many nights in the hospital, sometimes being rushed there multiple times in a few short hours.
That hasn’t stopped her from being a champion, just like her favorite Bills player. Since Josh Allen was drafted, Sophie has been his number one fan, often cheering him on from her living room and hoping somehow he could pass the ball to her.
When asked why he is her favorite player, Sophie replied, “He’s my friend.”
Allen received Emma’s letter and even though he missed the birthday party, he wanted to give the Rittling family a special experience at Highmark Stadium, including a tour and a surprise meet and greet.
“As soon as we walked in, and heard his voice, we knew. Sophie just walked right over to him like of course I’m meeting my best friend,” Lauren said.
“I don’t even think I was prepared for it. When I walked in I was flabbergasted,” Richard Rittling, Emma and Sophie’s father, said.
Sophie said she walked over and gave him a big hug while Emma said she fell to the floor and started crying.
“I thought it was amazing because sometimes kids look her as differently and I don’t look at her different. I see her as a normal 10-year-old little girl,” Emma said.
The bond between the Rittling sisters is as strong as the bond between Allen and his teammates.
“It fills my heart up with joy that she is such a nice and caring person and she treats her sister like gold. It’s unbelievable,” Richard added.
“It’s not easy to be such a role model to Sophie because she just looks up to him so much and I know that is hard for Emma,” Lauren said.
When asked why she loves her sister, Sophie quickly replied, “She’s my bestie,” and flashed a huge smile.
This unbreakable sisterly bond and the special moment is something this family will treasure forever.
“Thank you, Josh Allen,” Sophie said. “Go Bills!”
Emma says she encourages people to embrace and celebrate each others differences. She says she hopes everyone can be a bit more like Sophie, choosing kindness and love everyday.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.