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This article was published 16/10/2017 (735 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s one day a year without life-and-death decisions. There are no white coats, no scalpels, no IVs. No tears. And no pain.
A hundred little girls traded in reality for a ticket to fairyland Sunday at the 12th annual Princess for a Day gala.
Out of the 100 girls chosen by one of the three charities that support the gala, 60 are currently fighting life-threatening or life-altering medical diagnoses, including cancer, heart disease and chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Manitoba’s legislature was temporarily turned into Castle Chavella. Every little girl was given a coronation as a princess, dressed up in her very own ball gown and tiara for the presentation on the grand staircase.
Volunteers for the children’s charities softened the linear look of the province’s marble and stone legislature with flowing white curtains. Then they donned full-dress ball gowns as Disney characters to greet the girls and their parents like guests to a grand castle.
"This is a play date to be a princess for a day," said Stella Mazza, chair and founder of the event.
Grandmother Debbie Asselin accompanied her granddaughter Grace Chymy, 9, and Grace’s mother Angie Chymy on Sunday.
Her response to the striking ball gowns and the glow lighting up her granddaughter’s features was unexpectedly emotional, she said.
"All these little kids, all these princesses, it’s so regal. And all the little girls are so excited. I’m almost teary. It’s awesome," she said.
The standout, parents invariably say, is seeing the girls at their crowning moment, presented in their princess gowns and tiaras.
Amy Millette brought her husband with their two little girls this year. It’s his first time and their third invitation to the afternoon event.
Paisley Amyotte, 5, and older sister Jolie, 6, wore matching tunics and leggings in and planned to wear their ball gowns out of the legislature.
Paisley was diagnosed with a brain tumour at eight months old.
"She’s permanently on chemotherapy at this point," Millette said.
"It’s a nice break and it’s a nice way to create some new memories. Not everyone has the opportunity to do something like this, in a setting like this.
"It’s every little girl’s dream to be a princess. This is magical," Millette said.
Each child is sent an official invitation to the princess ball, from one of three charities that supports Princess for a Day. They include the Dream Factory, Children's Wish Foundation and the Children’s Hospital Foundation.
"It’s not so much a fundraiser as it’s an event for these girls, a party for them," said Mazza, who was inspired to organize the annual ball following her own treatment for breast cancer.
"I knew it was time to give back to the community and I’m very project-oriented. Going through my own treatment and seeing all the kids going through theirs, it broke my heart and I just want them to forget about it for a day," Mazza said.
The front doors of the legislature opened up into an inner landscape fit for the likes of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, who showed up among a dozen or more Disney characters from children’s fairy tales.
After a spell of mingling, chatting and setting the mood, the Disney princesses escorted the little girls up the grand staircase in their street clothes. Then, out of sight, they were whisked to 100 "beauty stations" that ringed the second floor. A tiara, rhinestone jewelry and a ball gown, comb, mirror and attendants waiting for each one.
The little girls were then presented with formality fit for a debutantes ball, descending the marble staircase, each one transformed into a princess.
A sit-down lunch wrapped up the afternoon.
The girls got to take their new finery home.
"I’ve had emails from mothers who have said to me, ‘I took my daughter to chemotherapy and she wore her princess dress.’ And she said to the doctor, ‘You can do whatever you want to me today. I’m a princess,’" Mazza said.
Alexandra is a veteran news reporter who has covered stories for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1987. She held the medical beat for nearly 17 years, and today specializes in coverage of Indigenous-related issues. She is among the most versatile journalists on the paper’s staff.
Updated on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 9:16 AM CDT: Corrects reference to Children’s Wish Foundation