DICKINSON — A young Dickinson girl with terminal cancer was treated to a procession fit for a princess Wednesday afternoon.
Little girls in dresses of bright pink, blue, gold and green lined the streets of a suburban Dickinson neighborhood as the sun set in the Western sky. Next to them, moms and dads, friend and neighbors held balloons, flowers and signs while a drum line played and cheerleaders waved pom-poms in the air.
At the middle of was 5-year-old Claire Lankford. Joined by her mother, Patricia Lankford, a principal in the Dickinson school district, and father, Kevin Lankford, an administrator with the Santa Fe school district, Claire was treated to a ride on a horse-drawn carriage as thousands lined the street to wish her well and show their support.
“She’s the neatest little kid you’ll ever meet,” Kevin said of his daughter.
His daughter loves horses, dolls and Scooby-Doo and, of course, princesses.
But more than a year ago, Claire was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that forms in soft tissue.
Kevin said his daughter was first diagnosed in June 2012 and underwent 42 weeks of chemotherapy.
The treatment seemed to work at first, and she was clear of the cancer from June until last month, when doctors found the cancer had returned, Kevin said.
Kevin said his daughter could have anywhere from about a month to nine months to live.
“It’s been very tough,” he said “(We are) just trying to take it one day at a time.”
But thanks to friends, family and co-workers, the Lankfords were able to organize a memorable day for their daughter.
The crowd began to gather outside their home on Smokey Lake Lane an hour before the 5 p.m. carriage ride.
Erin Fulcher said she went to school with Kevin and Patricia in Dickinson. She heard about the princess parade at work — she is a coach in the Dickinson school district — and saw it all over social media, she said.
Fulcher said she was happy to see so many people, especially so many children, lining the street.
Fulcher brought her own young daughter and said she tries to teach all of her children to enjoy and appreciate what they have.
“Making them understand that life is precious,” Fulcher said.
Bonnie Fried, principal of Barber Middle School in Dickinson, said she and others were there to support the family and to help give the Lankfords a “memory they can keep forever.”
“That’s what it’s really about,” she said.