CHANTILLY, Va. (WUSA9) -- An 8-year-old girl with brain cancer from Chantilly got the surprise of her life today. It's all thanks to a man who knows the toll cancer can take.
Tom Mitchell started StillBrave.org after his daughter Shayla died at age 16 from stage 4 Hodgkin's disease. He now makes it his mission to help children with cancer and their families. His mission today? To make 8-year-old Tara Sankner's dream of being a princess come true. So, to help that along, we're writing this story like a fairy-tale.
Once upon a time in a land not that far away, lived a beautiful princess.
And the sad fact is: the princess is sick.
But this fairy-tale is not about that, it's about Princess Tara's neighbors and friends, and a special Prince Charming bringing her fairy-tale dream to life. Tom Mitchell isn't your average Prince Charming. Tattooed and bald, he may not be who you first think of when you think of an angel, but Tara confided her dream to him just like he was hers. "She says 'you know Tom, my dream is to be a princess' and I said to myself 'I'm gonna make that dream come true.'"
The Prince Charming got all dressed up, brought a horse-drawn carriage to Tara's Chantilly home, and picked up the princess and all her friends for a ride through the streets. Mitchell explained why, "I believe my daughter gave her life, so I could be in the position to help these other children."
Mitchell's organization StilBrave.org helped put together a flash mob of close to a thousand people who lined Route 50 with signs and flowers. Police and firefighters helped keep everyone safe. All of this to surprise their princess for a day. It even surprised the princess' mom Tammy, "It's more than overwhelming, yes.... I'm shocked!"
People cheered and whistled, chanting, "Tara, Tara!" as the princess and her friends enjoyed their carriage ride. When it stopped, Tara enjoyed her second favorite part of the day, feeding the horse it's favorite food, cotton candy.
At first, the surprise overwhelmed the princess, but as the fairy-tale went on, she smiled and took it all in. I asked her, "What does Tom mean to you?" She answered, "He means like a friend, a really good friend."
The truth is we don't know what "happily ever after" will look like for Tara, nor for anyone else who came out to support her for that matter, but we do know she got to be a princess for one day.