A neighborhood street turned into the scene of a fairy tale Wednesday evening in honor of a 5-year-old girl's courage in her fight against cancer.
Claire was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma when she was 3 1/2 years old according to her mother, who is principal at Hughes Road Elementary School in Dickinson.
"She went through 42 weeks of chemotherapy and four weeks of radiation on her chest and six weeks of radiation on her spine," said Patricia Lankford. "Throughout her treatments she did not have her hair, her eyebrows or eyelashes but she was a source of joy for the doctors and nurses. She would walk around the hospital saying good evening, good afternoon. She walked the hallways receiving chemo and at the same time spreading joy."
Claire recently celebrated her fifth birthday with an American Girl party, a party with just her mom making Jiffy Pop popcorn for the first time and her favorite present, a trip to the beach.
On Wednesday, Claire was given one more surprise. Hundreds of people lined the streets of the Bay Colony Subdivision with signs and tossing flowers to cheer on “Princess Claire,” as she was escorted around the neighborhood in a horse drawn carriage.
She and her mother wore matching gowns, dressed as Claire's favorite princess, Belle. Her father, Kevin Lankford, dressed up as “Prince Charming” and escorted her to the waiting carriage as she whispered to him "I love you daddy."
“We just want her to know she is loved. I think that's what anyone would want to know in their lifetime. No matter how long or how short it may be and that they were here and they had friends and family and people that care about them,” said Kevin Lankford.
Claire's mother Patricia Lankford said the community turnout was much more than she expected.
“I envisioned a carriage, maybe a few people from the community and the school district to come out and support us. This was incredible – incredible to think that people would want to come out and support my child. It's beautiful,” said the elementary school principal.