Princess dreams really do come true

Holly Richrath
Dunlap Grade School first grader Anna Menke, 6, takes pictures with Cinderella after being pampered for a royal tea party at the Country Club of Peoria.

A Dunlap Grade School first-grade student was among 16 local girls who received a visit from a Disney Princess Thursday.

Anna Menke, 6, said Sleeping Beauty is her favorite princess, but she was not disappointed when Cinderella walked through the door.

The princess was in town to perform with the Disney on Ice Princess Classics show Oct. 21 through 23 at the Peoria Civic Center.

She wore glass slippers in lieu of ice skates as she made a special appearance at a royal tea party at the Country Club of Peoria. Prior to meeting Cinderella, 16 young girls from the Peoria chapter of Easter Seals were pampered.

“The participating young ladies are current or very recent ambassadors for Easter Seals,” said Julie Witte, vice president of development and marketing at Easter Seals. “Each year, a number of families act as our formal ambassadors and speak to the community about their experience with services at Easter Seals.”

Many of the girls wore princess dresses as they had their nails and hair done. Once they were pampered, the princess arrived and spent time with each girl, talking and having pictures taken. Each girl and a guest were invited to attend the opening night of the ice show that evening.

“Anna thinks it’s pretty cool that she gets to see all of the princesses,” her mother, Amy Menke, said. “She likes getting her hair and her nails done. That’s about the only thing about her that’s girly.”

Anna was born with a heart defect and suffered a spinal stroke during surgery.

The lack of blood flow down her spinal cord caused paralysis in her legs.

“When she was 18 months, we had her fitted for her first wheelchair,” Menke said. “When she was 4 we started getting physical therapy at Easter Seals. So we do physical therapy, we do water therapy and believe it or not, they had a yoga class this summer.”

Amy Menke said that meeting Cinderella and being treated like a princess was not the only thing that made the day special.

“It’s kind of nice because you’re with other families who kind of live the same story that you live,” she said. “Nobody stares and nobody points. It’s nice that you don’t have to explain to people technically what’s ‘wrong’ with your kid.

“She’s just like everybody else, she just walks a little bit differently, and she’s walking in a walker,” Menke added. “We don’t want people to feel sorry for us. She is no different than her 11-year-old brother.”

Melissa Newton, an ensemble cast member with the ice show, was at the tea party to introduce Cinderella.

“Since we are a princess show and every girl dreams of being a princess, this is just something that local people from the community are coming out and helping (with) by giving their services and making each little girl feel like a princess. I’m moved by this and I just think it’s great that we get to put a smile on their faces. They look like they’re having a great time.”

One thing is for sure — it was a day that these little girls will never forget.

“One little girl said to her mom (Thursday) night, ‘Mom, this was the best day of my whole life,’” Witte said.