A princess is typically someone clad with fine attire who captures the attention of every person in any given room.
Customers at Mr. Gatti's in Thomasville looked on with curiosity as two young ladies — both of whom fit the description of princess — strolled into the dining area on April 27. The guest of honor, however, would not make her appearance for nearly another hour, as a crowd of nearly 40 people anxiously awaited her arrival. Princesses included.
Three-year old Anslee LeBlanc, who suffers from a form of cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, shyly greeted a crowd of friends and family members who had gathered at the pizza parlor for a surprise princess-themed send-off party. This month, Anslee is headed to Disney World thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Her party and upcoming vacation is a culmination of her wish to meet real life princesses.
"Since she's turned 2, she started to get into princesses," said Mary LeBlanc, Anslee's mother. "'I want to be a princess,' she said. So this past Halloween, she got a Cinderella dress."
Little did she know then that she would soon meet real life princesses and her favorite princess, Cinderella, in a matter of days. Miss Central Carolina Kristalyn Gill and Miss Central Carolina's Outstanding Teen Kristin Duhart were among those in attendance at Mr. Gatti's to present Anslee with a crown of her own, proclaiming her a princess in her own right.
Restaurant manager Tim Brooks personally paid for the meals of Anslee, her parents and grandparents. Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center gift shop donated balloons and other room decorations.
On October 17, 2011, Anslee was diagnosed with ALL. In the following months, she would undergo several treatments and endure many painful processes. When the prototypical "girly girl" lost her hair, she did not lose heart. Instead she waited patiently as it grew back and then rejoiced when she could again put hair bows, ribbons and other accessories back in her hair.
Anslee's treatment will conclude Feb. 13, at which point doctors will schedule bi-monthly check-ups. If everything goes well, Anslee will eventually visit her doctor just once a month. After five years of being cancer free, she will be considered cured.
"We've had so many people praying for her, it's amazing. I think that has really helped her get through," Mary LeBlanc said. "She's always had such a positive attitude. We just went to the hospital for a week two weeks ago because she caught a cold. With her, a cold can put her in the hospital. She was happy the whole time we were in there even though she was in isolation. She was just playing with her toys and eating her Cheeze-Its.
"She makes us stay positive, because there are times as parents, we think of the bad things she doesn't even know."
Anslee's father, Guy LeBlanc, credited Karen and Rick Jarvis of Make-A-Wish with meeting the needs of his family's hectic schedule and providing magical days they will never forget. When asked what he thought of his daughter's claim to fairy tale lure, he smiled and admitted to her being a princess. He claims, however, that there is a side to Anslee only he sees.
"I tried to put a little tomboy in her, but I'm overruled," Guy LeBlanc said. "But whenever her mama's not home and I have her during the day before I go to work, she's outside riding her doom buggy, getting dirty, getting in sand."
Perhaps, but Anslee's coronation as princess was just a faux formality for anyone who knows the child. Each member of her family will gladly attest to her royalty. Now the child will have the opportunity to travel to Orlando this month to meet a few of the characters who inspired her in her journey.
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or email@example.com.
The mission of Make-A-Wish Foundation is to grant the wishes of children from ages 2 and a half to 18 years old. For more information about Make-A-Wish, visit www.ncwish.org. The local affiliate is identified as the Triad Chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and Western North Carolina.