It began as an idea a young boy had – to do something nice for one of his best friends. Next, a call out was made on social media, followed by lots of determination by the organizers, an entire community and beyond rallying together and soon a little girl’s wish was granted in just over 48 hours.
On Dec. 21st a ball, fit for two princesses, was held at École James S. McCormick School in Lacombe. The gymnasium was transformed into a party palace, with a DJ, balloons, flowers, a chocolate fountain and several princesses and princes.
The guest of honour was six-year-old Makenzie Fickle, a student of the school, who was diagnosed with metablastoma, a form of brain cancer.
Makenzie was first diagnosed over a year ago, and after multiple treatments and surgeries, she was declared cancer-free this past August. Living in northern Alberta, the family relocated to Lacombe after staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton, as it was the perfect location between Red Deer and Edmonton with direct access to hospitals. The Fickles were settling into life in their new community when they received devastating news on Dec. 17th – Makenzie’s cancer had returned in a more aggressive manner, with no further treatment options.
After hearing the news, family friend Brandy Forgeron, whose son Alex is in Makenzie’s class, had to tell her son one of his best friends would not be returning to school after the Christmas break.
“Immediately he turned around and said he wanted to be Makenzie’s prince charming,” explained Forgeron. Inspired, she first went onto Facebook to try to locate a Prince Charming costume for her son, and then after the resounding response of community members who wanted to volunteer services or donate towards a ball, she realized something bigger could happen.
From her son’s earnest statement birthed the idea of the Princess Ball – a magical night for Makenzie, her sister Miah and the rest of their family. The wheels began in motion on a Friday, after clearing the idea with Makenzie’s mom, and by the following Monday, the ball was held in the school gym.
First donations came in of black table cloths, followed by a donated limo ride for the family to the ball, then a photo booth, DJ services, two photographers, a special three-tier princess cake, cupcakes, a nail and makeup salon, pizza, a visit from the Glitter Bomb, flower bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres and a red carpet among so many others.
“It was really a matter of networking within the community,” said Forgeron. “We received donations from Red Deer, Olds, Lacombe, Ponoka and Innisfail. So many people within the community just completely shined for her.”
In keeping with the princess theme, the Cornerstone Youth Theatre from Red Deer also visited dressed as Disney princesses and princes and performed several dances. Makenzie and her sister Miah also received a special message and later a home visit from Disney princess Elsa.
“It was really amazing to see the family dancing and Makenzie smiling,” said Forgeron. “This is exactly what our community does. We live in an amazing community that always comes forward 10-fold.”
Tania Buckler Fickle, Makenzie’s grandmother, visiting from Peace River, was in attendance with the rest of her family at the Princess Ball. She had set up an initial GoFundMe page for Makenzie in 2014 when she was first diagnosed and the family was living up north.
Buckler Fickle said at the time of Makenzie’s diagnosis, the communities in northern Alberta, like Grande Prairie, Peace River and Fairview, also rallied together last year to raise funds for her granddaughter.
For George Alonso, the Princess Ball project goes beyond the Central Alberta area.
“It all started with a post on social media where a woman was asking for a miracle,” he said. “I read it on a Saturday afternoon when I was in my office. I realized that there was a little girl in need. Within 24 hours more than 20 businesses and individuals had pitched in to help out.
“No one thought twice to jump in and help,” he said of the community.
Alonso’s media company based in Red Deer, donated their services and time to create a special memory video for Makenzie and her family. The company opened their studio the night of the ball to do the voice over, created the animation and edit the video for the family.
“It was absolutely magical,” said Alonso of the ball. “People need to hear good news these days. People need to know that we care for others. The community is generous. They give to us so it’s great when we can give back.”
Forgeron said the community group is still raising funds for the Fickle family as they are planning to go on a family vacation in the future.
For more information visit the GoFundMe page – Makenzie’s Last Battle at https://www.gofundme.com/effgfd38.