Avery Lee was a princess for the day.
The local 4-year-old girl, who suffers from Dravet syndrome – this rare, devastating disease is the cause for her epilepsy and frequent or prolonged seizures – was treated to a surprise Disney Magical Tour for her birthday last week compliments of the Lathrop High School Theater Arts Department.
Family and friends who accompanied young Avery Lee on this special day (April 3) sported “Avery’s Army” shirts at the event that featured an entourage of Disney princess in full costume, hair and makeup: Cinderella, Snow White, Tiana, Mulan, Olaf, Minnie Mouse, Pocahontas, Elsa, Anna, and the cards from Alice in Wonderland.
According to drama teacher Hali Rosen, Lee’s favorite was Merida from the Disney Pixar film, Brave.
“With the generosity of Target, each princess was able to give Avery a doll (bearing) the likeness of their character,” she said.
Other businesses such as Costco, Save Mart and Raley’s chipped in for the refreshments.
Rosen noted that she was contacted by Lee’s grandmother Debra Lopez to create “something magical” to mark the occasion.
Avery Lee is physically restricted from going to Disneyland because of her condition.
Rosen had her Advanced and Intermediate Theater Arts students in the role of the princesses.
LHS advanced choir under the direction of Elizabeth Van Eerde performed for Avery Lee’s special day as well as Desiree Bugarin’s school band. Together, they played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” along with “Let it Go” from Frozen, with theater class students singling along and dancing flash mob-style to the latter.
All told, over 115 students took part in this special event.
The birthday girl, in addition, was treated to a tea party and joined by all of the princesses while accompanied by a bubble machine.
“Avery was first brought into the classroom, where Olaf – another on of favorite characters – and the princesses were waiting for her,” said Rosen, who described the girl as initially being very shy. “Olaf then escorted her to the hallway that led into the band room.”
It was there that two lines of students in costume waved and greeted the youngster with a happy birthday reception.
Avery Lee also enjoyed a three-tiered cake featuring Elsa, Merida, and Minnie, who are among her favorite Disney characters.
“Even though Avery could not talk, her emotions were well expressed through her body language and eyes,” said Rosen, who hadn’t heard of Dravet syndrome until quite recently.
This is a rare disease that may not be apparent in the first year of life for an infant.
Some of the signs include two or more prolonged seizures by age 1 or one prolonged seizure and any hemi-clonic (sustained, rhythmic jerking on side of the body) in that child’s first year.
“Reflecting back on all that happened that day, I wish Avery and her family the best in any challenges they face in the future,” Rosen said. “She is a strong, beautiful girl – I wish nothing but the best for her.”
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail email@example.com