By Kelly Glista, The Hartford Courant
BERLIN — Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Leah.
Leah Prendergast’s life is not a fairytale. At 5-years-old, she is battling a life-threatening medical condition. But on a cold, rainy Saturday morning in central Connecticut, hundreds of people in Leah’s home town gathered to give her a parade worthy of a princess.
The “princess parade” was put together by firefighters, police, town employees, residents and businesses in Berlin to show their support for the little girl and her family, who live in the town’s East Berlin section.
The event came together in about two weeks, Berlin Mayor Rachel Rochette said.
“It was tremendous, and such a great outpouring from the community,” she said.
Firetrucks from each of the town’s four fire departments provided an escort as a horse-drawn carriage brought Leah and her family to Webster Square, where a crowd of people waited with balloons and signs saying “We love you Leah” and “Princess Leah Rocks.”
“It was cold, it was rainy and that did not stop a single person from coming out,” said Michael Dominick, community and media relations manager for the state’s chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
On Sunday, Leah and her family will leave for a trip Disney World in Florida, a trip made possible by Make-A-Wish, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Details about Leah’s medical condition were kept private at the request of her family and Make-A-Wish, Dominick said.
Leah’s family was “ecstatic” with the turnout for Saturday’s parade, said Dominick.
“They just kept repeating how grateful they were,” he said.
The parade ended at Creations Nail and Hair Salon at Webster Square, where Leah, her sister, her mother and her grandmother were given beauty treatments. The carriage ride, the salon services and the princess costumes for the parade were all donated by local businesses.
The mayor even read a proclamation declaring Saturday to be “Princess Leah Day.”
“It’s a testament to a really great community,” Dominick said.
As for the little princess, he said, being royal for a day is tiring and Leah’s ready for a good night’s sleep before her trip to Disney World.
“She feels like a princess today, for sure,” said Dominick.