South’s Greatest Kids 2022

There’s never a dull moment as a Southern child! Between hunting, fishing, beach-going, Coca-cola tasting, sports, keeping up with their favorite shows, tending to pets, and eating all the pizza — we can’t keep up!

Photos / Lindsay Klafehn

There’s never a dull moment as a Southern child! Between hunting, fishing, beach-going, Coca-cola tasting, sports, keeping up with their favorite shows, tending to pets, and eating all the pizza — we can’t keep up!

1. Rhealynn Mills

Age: 8 years old

Siblings: Kale Milles (11)

Parents/Caretakers: Trey and Revana Mills

My name is Rhealynn, and in many ways, my life is pretty special. I really enjoy being outdoors in any capacity, whether that’s hunting, fishing, going to the barn, or playing sports — any activity where I can be wild and carefree. When I head to the barn, I have a lot of mouths to feed: the horses, my dogs Woody, Daisy, and Roscoe, and my cat, Spade. Softball is my favorite sport. I have some of the best, most supportive teammates in the world. They — along with the community of Thomasville, Georgia — have been by my side both on the field and in my battle with osteosarcoma. While I am a pretty strong girl, I get a lot of my strength from them. And in return, I show them how to be positive, even on the hard days.

Rhealynn’s Battle
Initially, the Mills’ family believed they’d be fighting a broken femoral neck. But, after a second opinion and additional tests, they discovered their battle would be much tougher. Rhealynn was diagnosed with osteosarcoma — a type of cancer that begins in the cells that form bones. Since her diagnosis, Rhealynn has had multiple surgeries, the loss of her leg, physical therapy, a lung procedure, endless tests, and chemotherapy.

Also since her diagnosis, Rhealynn has had the unrelenting support of her family, friends, teammates, and the Thomasville community. Rhealynn’s Facebook page, “Pray for Rhea”, shows an outpouring of well wishes and positivity — not to mention, Rhealynn’s own persistent smile, whether she’s pictured post-surgery, decorating Christmas stockings, or visiting her friends.

When circumstances such as Rhea’s strike, it truly takes a village to win the battle. Rhea is doing her part, bravely. But let’s not let her bear the weight alone.

Visit gofundme.com/f/prayfor-rhea or @prayforrhea on Venmo to support Rhaelynn and the Mills family as they bravely and relentlessly battle osteosarcoma — and follow her inspiring journey and find details on upcoming events on Facebook at facebook.com/profile.php?id=100086404882652. Pray for Rhea!

2. Ari and Yosef Friedman

Age: 3 years old

Siblings: Jacob, Eitan, and Matan

Parents/Caretakers: Kim Friedman

Yes, we are the Friedman twins. That is, one of the two sets of Friedman twins! You may have seen the other twins, Eitan and Matan in last year’s contest. And in a similar way to our other twin brothers, we may be twins, but we are our own individuals, too! Ari is more soft spoken, embodying true Southern manners, whereas Yosef (Seffi) is hands-on, willing to try anything. Ari likes Paw Patrol, Seffi likes the Hulk. Ari likes Cici’s Pizza and Chuck E Cheese; Seffi likes Krispy Kreme and Moe’s. However, we both take full advantage of being kids and getting away with some mischief because we’re small — it’s the best part!

3. Max, Elijah, Johnah, and Stetson Volen

Age: Max (7), Elijah (5), Jonah (3), Stetson (1)

Parents/Caretakers: Ben and Alanna Volen

We are the Volen boys and boy, do our parents have their hands full! We are the brothers who don’t stop! Our mom — who was born and raised in the South — instilled in us a sense of adventure and respect for the outdoors from our young age. We do everything, from low country boils to four-wheeler riding. We love catching fish, chasing bugs, running around with the dogs (Rigsby and Gunner), playing sports and eating any and all Southern food (particularly at Starland Yard). In Savannah, we love the Forsyth Park playground and the trampoline park. When we can’t be outside, we love drawing and puzzles. By the end of the day, this is all hopefully enough to tire us out!

P.S. Stetson Bennett, if you’re reading this, our brother, Stetson, really wants a signed ball for Christmas. Go Dawgs!

4. & 5. Abby and Sarah Garrett

Age: Abby (13) and Sarah (9)

Siblings: Rebekah, Emily, and Nick

Parents/Caretakers: Tracy and Tim Garrett

We are Abby and Sarah, the Garrett sisters. And, as sisters, we have a lot in common! We both love to dance — we share a lot of tips back and forth. Our favorite place to eat in Savannah is Vinnie’s pizza, because who doesn’t love pizza? On days off, we head to the Cocacola factory in Atlanta (where Sarah was born) and enjoy a good, old-fashioned sugar rush. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll head to Publix for the free cookies — the best part about being a kid. If we’re not getting a sugar fix, we’re heading to the beach to soak in the Southern sunshine. At home, we take turns taking care of our two hamsters and two fish.

Photo / Nelson LaPorte

Honorable Mention: Parker Stewart

Age: 7 years old

Siblings: Olivia (10)

Parents/Caretakers: Amanda and Doug Stewart

I am Parker Stewart and I love running, cycling, and racing go-karts. After learning how to swim, I recently competed in my first triathlon in Daytona Beach, FL where I broke the record for being the fastest 7-year-old to finish the course! I broke three state records in running while training for that triathlon and I hold the South Carolina state record in 5k, 8k, and 10k races. My favorite place to eat is Moe’s Southwest Grill in Bluffton because they serve brownies. In my time off I’m usually training for a competition or traveling to a competition. When I’m at home, I hang out with my two dogs Zeke and Pepper, my two cats Mona and Lisa, and my 11 chickens.

Did you know?
Parker Stewart dove into swimming after discovering he wanted to compete in triathlons. A triathlon for children ages 7-10 is roughly a 100 meter swim, 3 mile bike ride, and a 0.5 mile run. Distances vary, but an Olympic triathlon consists of a 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike ride, and a 6.2 mile run.

Interested in competing in a triathlon? Visit trifind.com to view triathlons around the country.

 


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