5-Year-Old With Cancer Is Made Princess for the Day

Elise Solé

Claire Lankford, a 5-year-old girl with terminal cancer, got her fairytale ending on Wednesday when her hometown of Dickinson, Texas, helped make her a princess for the day.

For the past year and a half, Claire has been fighting a rare form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma, which has no known cure. "Claire was cleared of cancer in June, but her scans in January showed five tumors in her lungs and lymph nodes," Claire’s mom, Patricia Lankford, tells Yahoo Shine. However, like many little girls, Claire brightens up when she sees princesses, so last Monday, Lankford’s longtime friend Jamie Harbuck hatched an idea to make Claire the star of her own princess parade. After getting Lankford's blessing, Harbuck turned to some local businesses and the town's high school for help pulling the whole thing off.

“I wanted to make Claire feel special and I thought dressing her as a princess and having her spend the day with one would make her happy,” says Harbuck. “It sort of snowballed from there.”

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On Wednesday, with a plan in place, Harbuck went to the Lankfords' home and asked Claire, “What would you do if Cinderella came to your house?” Moments later, there was a knock on the door, and Cinderella, Snow White, and Aurora (from the classic "Sleeping Beauty") were standing on the doorstep, accompanied by a court jester. “They brought cupcakes, and we all had a tea party,” says Harbuck. She and Claire's mom presented the little girl with a Belle costume (from "Beauty and the Beast"), along with elbow-length gloves and a crystal tiara engraved with hearts and stars, both donated by a local bridal shop, and two pink-and-yellow rose bouquets provided by a nearby florist.

Shortly after, the Dickinson High School trumpet players arrived at the Lankford home and began playing on the lawn. When Claire and her mother walked outside, Claire’s father, Kevin, was down on one knee, dressed as Prince Charming, in front of a horse-drawn carriage (that tab was picked up by a local grocery store). “Claire freaked out when she saw her father wearing a prince costume and ran over to him,” says Lankford, who even put on her own Belle costume to match her daughter's. 

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The family piled into the carriage and rode around the block several times, passing a gathering crowd of local residents on each loop. And the turnout was astounding: “There must have been 2,000 people at the parade; many of whom came dressed as Disney characters,” says Harbuck. Dickinson High School also got into the spirit, sending its cheerleading team to perform a series of routines.

“Claire had a wonderful day and can’t stop talking about the princesses,” says Lankford. “It meant a lot that so many people honored my daughter like this. Claire already has such a positive attitude, and this made her even happier."

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