The Princess with a Giant Heart
Once upon a time in the Kingdom of New Jersey lived a princess named Danielle. From the outside this 17-year-old was just like any other teenager who loved shopping, getting her hair and nails done, listening to music, and hanging out with friends.
But there was something special about Princess Danielle that set her apart from the rest – she had a giant heart filled with love and kindness.
One such tale of kindness that spread through the Kingdom was how she selflessly collected toys for kids at the hospital for her Bat Mitzvah. And while the princess’ good deeds never went unnoticed, it was a mystery in the Kingdom how her heart could be filled with so much love and kindness despite the many struggles she faced in her life.
See, from an early age, Danielle experienced frequent seizures – so frequent that her parents feared that an evil sorcerer cast a spell on her.
Their advisors informed her parents that the origin of the sorcery was a rare neurological condition known as Hemimegalencephaly (HME), in which one side of the brain is abnormally larger than the other. It was the enlarged brain tissue that was causing the seizures and the only remedy to the spell was removing the affected hemisphere of the brain.
Having to live through, not just one, but 17 surgeries and countless doctors’ visits would surely make anyone, even a princess, become frustrated and annoyed.
But Danielle has never looked at any of her 189 doctors’ visits, therapies, or surgeries as a burden. When she arrived at the hospital, Danielle would gracefully greet everyone she came in contact with, and the Kingdom’s citizens were always humbled to receive a visit from our royal princess. “Her life is just about making other people smile and laugh,” shared dad Hal.
When the princess was just 7 years old, a hope of light was cast on Danielle and her family in the form of the enCourage Kids Foundation.
By offering Danielle, her parents, and her brother fun-filled experiences that they could share together, enCourage Kids gave them the opportunity to laugh, to play, and to have fun, despite the daily struggles.
For over 10 years, the royal family has enjoyed outings to amusement parks, weekends at camp, and nights at the ballpark. “The great thing is it’s not just for the child – it’s for the family,” explained Hal. “To include all the kids, it’s really encouraging family.”
By meeting other families at these events, the royal family soon found that their community expanded outside of their Kingdom. “The families here [at camp] are unique. We all have our issues but nobody cares and it’s a chance for the parents to talk and the kids get together,” reflected Hal during their weekend at camp.
And while Danielle loves the time she gets to spend with her family, there was one special ball that allowed our princess to step out on her own for the very first time – The Garden of Dreams Prom.
Leading up to the evening she was treated like a true VIP princess, enjoying a shopping spree for her dress, having her hair and make-up done, and walking the red carpet. Usually dependent on her parents, that evening she was proud to walk in on her own and mingle with other teenagers throughout the night – all without losing a slipper.
In fact, it was those very slippers that our fair princess wore during our photo shoot, which was another experience that brought her joy during a difficult period.
“She’s been through a lot of medical issues recently,” shared mom Susan. “She was in the hospital in June for a week, she was in the hospital in July for a week, and she had surgery. It’s always something medical. So this is just something really special and really fun…she’s just so excited to be here today.”
With experiences like these in her life, it wasn’t long until what was lacking in the space in Danielle’s head began to fill up her giant heart with love and kindness.