Tonight, 19-year-old Madi Sonju fulfills a dream as she joins the contestants of Dixie’s Got Talent, competing for top honors in this annual talent competition. Madi, who will be performing a dance to the song “Let it Go” from “Frozen,” has unique talents that have landed her in the DGT finals along with 23 other acts – but Madi stands apart from her competitors in that she was born with Down syndrome.
But nothing stops this irrepressible young woman from achieving her goals – whether it’s competing in the Special Olympics, becoming a member of her high school cheerleading squad, being crowned homecoming queen or competing in Southern Utah’s biggest talent competition.
“This was Madi’s dream and she made it happen,” said her mom, Leslye Sonju.
Madi attended last year’s Dixie’s Got Talent competition with her family, and she was so entranced by the show that she made up her mind she would be onstage this year – not just in the audience. So she watched all year for posters to go up announcing the 2014 auditions. When they finally did, Madi took a photo of the poster with her cell phone and immediately sent it to her mom.
“She asked me every day: ‘Did you call? Did you call? Did you call?’” Leslye Sonju said.
Madi went through the audition process and made it all the way. Tonight, she’ll show the local audience just what she can do.
“I’m very, very excited,” Madi said.
This will be Madi’s first time performing in a competition like this, but she said she’s not nervous. Her mom said she’s been taking dance lessons since she was 3 years old.
Though she’s not quite finished with this year’s competition yet, Madi already has plans for next year’s Dixie’s Got Talent. In addition to dancing she is also a singer, and Madi said next year she’s going to sing for her talent – probably either a Justin Bieber song or a Taylor Swift tune.
“Madi is real persistent,” Leslye Sonju said. “When she sees something that she wants to do, she makes sure it happens. She’s very driven.”
When she’s not dancing or singing, Madi stays busy with many other involvements. In addition to attending Post High School, a special education school in the Washington County School District, she works at Tonaquint Middle School, helping in the special ed classroom there; she helps teach young cheerleaders at Raglan Coast Cheer in St. George; she’s a Special Olympian and competes in soccer, basketball and bowling; and she’s the singing time leader in the nursery at her church, teaching songs each Sunday to the babies and toddlers and leading them in music.
“She would love to teach dance someday,” Leslye Sonju said. “She loves little children.”
Madi was a miracle child for Leslye Sonju and her husband, Bob Sonju, who works for the Washington County School District as the director of learning. Leslye and Bob had no history of Down syndrome in either of their families – but Leslye gave birth to not one, but two children with Down syndrome. Their oldest daughter, Macey, who is 21, was also born with Down syndrome. The odds of having two Down syndrome children, particularly in a family with no history of the condition, are more than a million to one, Leslye said.
“It’s just one of those miracles,” she said, getting a high-five from Madi.
Madi, who truly doesn’t seem to be limited by anything, encourages other people to follow their dreams, too.
“It’s OK,” she said. “Just do it and try your best, and that’s all you gotta do.’”