(CNN) — A Texas community assembled on Wednesday to throw an elaborate, Disney-themed parade for one 5-year-old girl.
Claire Lankford, who has a rare form of terminal cancer, was surprised to find herself surrounded by hundreds of people for her very own “Princess Day” in Dickinson, Texas. Friends and community members from the Bay Colony neighborhood held handmade signs with messages like “We love you, Princess Claire!”
Lankford had no idea about the celebration until women dressed as Cinderella and Snow White knocked on her door. Soon after, she was carried outside by her father to see the festivities.
The path to her front door had been transformed into a red carpet covered in rose petals. Groups of students, including cheerleaders, from Santa Fe, Dickinson and Texas City high schools lined the path. They cheered and threw flowers.
The Facebook page for the event had 278 people listed as attending, but Sgt. John Jordan from the League City Police Department told HLN the event lasted two hours and more than 1,000 people were in attendance.
Lankford’s father and mother, dressed as a prince and a princess, rode with their daughter in a horse-drawn carriage. Perhaps best of all, Lankford got to wear a princess gown modeled after Belle’s from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” The Belle dress was a special gift from the folks at Jill’s Fashions and Bridal, who got it via donation to transform Lankford into the princess she had always wanted to be.
“We supplied crowns and gloves for both mother and daughter,” Diana Montes from Jill’s told HLN. “We also steamed the dress and got it looking its best for Claire to wear.”
The type of cancer Lankford has is called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, which causes malignant cancer cells to form in muscle tissue. There is no known cure.
Patricia Lankford told HLN that, despite 42 weeks of chemotherapy, her daughter never cried or acted sad. She looked forward to seeing her doctors, and her attitude remained positive even throughout her radiation treatments.
“If a little girl can be happy and joyful through what she was going through,” Patricia Lankford said, “then that proves that circumstances do not dictate behavior. I don’t want to celebrate Claire’s cancer or her survival. I want to celebrate Claire.”
Montes told HLN that a co-worker who organized the donation of the dress heard her 16-year-old son say something during the parade that touched her heart.
“He said, ‘I had no idea that so many people could love someone so much that they don’t even know,’” Montes said.