When we first met 4-year-old Sarah Landrigan on Sept. 17, we were introduced to a very special little girl with a very perplexing disease. (See related story)
Sarah has Mitochondrial Disease, an illness that prevents her body from converting food and oxygen into energy efficiently. The disease also causes seizures, ketotic hypoglycemia, persistent fatigue, developmental delays, severe muscle weakness and gastrointestinal issues. Sarah is also dependent on a feeding tube.
“I was told she would never walk, never talk, never be able to show affection,” said Sarah’s mom, Mindy Stump. But Sarah has proven the doctor’s wrong and is today a happy child with a zest for life, although she still struggles with everyday activities most children take for granted.
The disease has prevented and continues to hinder many activities Sarah can take part in. Among those has always been trick-or-treating. Sarah has never had the energy or muscular stamina to go trick-or-treating with her older sister, Hannah. But that is all changing this year thanks to some very generous hearts.
What started as a casual conversation about Halloween costumes between Sarah’s mom, Mindy, and Sarah’s Sacred Heart preschool teacher, Cindy Hollowell, progressed into a grand event that all played out this morning to a very surprised Sarah, an equally awe-struck student body from Sacred Heart, and barely a dry eye among the teachers and staff at Sacred Heart School.
For her first trick-or-treating adventure, little Sarah chose to dress as her favorite princess, Cinderella. She will accompany big sister Hannah who is dressing up as Cinderella’s fairy godmother. But there were two problems with their costume choices.
The first problem with the whole trick-or-treating plan is with Sarah’s physical inabilities to walk up and down sidewalks and porches to collect her candy. The second problem was in finding Hannah’s fairy godmother costume.
In trying to remedy the matters, Mindy asked Hollowell if she had any ideas on how to decorate Sarah’s wheelchair to compliment her costume.
“She said she just wasn’t very creative and wondered If I had any ideas. I immediately knew who to call,” said Hollowell, and she motioned toward Melanie Cameron, Sacred Heart School’s secretary.
Cameron in turn responded, “I knew my mom would do it,” and then all eyes turned to Carol Rutledge, who stood quiet, her hazel eyes filling with tears. “It made me start crying just to think Sarah wanted this so badly,” said Rutledge, who agreed to use her crafting skills to turn Sarah’s wheelchair into Cinderella’s carriage.
It took several days of sneaking Sarah’s wheelchair out of the classroom and into the gym where Rutledge and Cameron worked diligently behind a stage curtain using chicken wire to form the princess’ elegant coach and another 3 weeks to add the papier-mâché, paint it Sarah’s favorite shade of pink, trim it with gold lacing and add fluffy white tulle inside the carriage.
The mother and daughter team – which Cameron says was mostly her mom – also crafted carriage wheels from cardboard painted gold to complete the look.
Cinderella’s carriage was crafted to fit perfectly over Sarah’s wheelchair so the little girl can ride in princess style as she sets out Wednesday evening for her first trick-or-treating adventure.
But before Sarah could get her princess carriage, there was still the matter of Hannah needing a fairy godmother costume so she could accompany her sister on their historical holiday. That is when yet another volunteer stepped up.
Angie Sokol volunteered to sew a costume for Hannah and came up with an adorable hoop dress covered in sparkles and accessorized with a fur jacket, blonde wig and a magic wand.
Hannah knew about her sister’s Halloween surprise carriage, but pretended not to. During the surprise presentation at Sacred Heart School this morning, when none of the other children could figure out the magic words to reveal the secret behind the curtain, young Hannah in her fairy godmother costume, walked to the stage and confidently cast the magic spell of “bippity boppity boo.”
And with that, the curtain opened to reveal her little sister’s wheelchair converted into Cinderella’s magical carriage. The sight of the pink beauty sitting in front of an elegantly lighted castle scene and Sarah’s reaction to seeing her new ride fit only for a princess, was the emotional fairy tale beginning for Sarah who then rode through the hallways of her school taking part in her first ever trick-or-treating.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Others who deserve recognition for helping pull together the presentation of Sarah’s Cinderella carriage are Sacred Heart Art Teacher Kallie Kirkendall and helpers Melanie Cameron, Winona Drake and Lili Polk who decorated the stage.)