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‘She is the only survivor’: 5-year-old girl with multiple illnesses becomes a Disney princess for Christmas, thanks to Central Florida non-profits

Credit: Photographer Chris Glenn

A five-year-old little girl with multiple critical and chronic illnesses has been battling her medical conditions for most of her life, but for Christmas this year, she got to take a break from her brave battles and become the princess of her dreams, thanks to two Central Florida non-profit organizations.

Five-year-old Olivia McCleary from Indiana has not one, but multiple chronic illnesses. She has been a sick child for much of her life, but her illnesses haven’t kept her from dreaming about becoming a princess.

Olivia lives with cerebral palsy and a chronic lung disease, among other illnesses. The little girl has also been diagnosed with other conditions as well.

“She started having seizures, and at the age of two she was diagnosed with a condition called LGS,” explained Olivia’s mom, Katie Jackson said of her very brave daughter. “She has a condition called Pilarowski-Bjornsson Syndrome, ‘PBS’ for short. There are only 10 people in the whole world that ever had this syndrome and she is the only survivor.”

The non-profits Give Kids the World Village and Majic Messengers, joined forces in October 2021 to make Olvia’s dream of being a princess a reality.

 

Olivia’s favorite Disney Princess is Queen Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. So the teams’ goal was to turn 5-year-old Olivia into a real princess that looked like the one she loves, Queen Elsa.

Credit: Photographer Chris Glenn

“When we were talking, Olivia stated that she wanted to be Elsa,” Olivia’s mother said, speaking about her daughter. “It’s a Christmas miracle honestly because we didn’t think that we were going to be able to travel because of COVID.”

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Jackson says her daughter is very excited and really proud of the photoshoot that took place once she became a Disney Princess.

“People are not so nice,” Jackson explained during an interview, saying her daughter Olivia “walks a little differently” and “looks a little differently,” but during the photoshoot, Olivia’s mother said the adorable little girl felt pretty.

We think she’s beautiful!

Credit: Photographer Chris Glenn

Michael Stratton is the founder of Majic Messengers in Florida. The non-profit organization works to show children with critical illnesses that they are important.

“That’s something you can’t put a price on,” Stratton said when he talked about Olivia’s reaction to her Disney Princess photoshoot. “At the end of the day, these kids are still kids and they want to have the same experiences as any other kid out there.”

Olivia’s mother Katie Jackson says that the photos of her daughter mean a whole lot to her.

“Those are pictures that will outlast Olivia,” Jackson said of her daughter and the photoshoot. “And [the nonprofits] gave me an opportunity to have my child’s voice.”

Credit: Photographer Chris Glenn

Credit: Photographer Chris Glenn

Give Kids the World Village and Majic Messengers are hopeful that Olivia’s story about becoming a princess will bring hope and inspiration to other children like her and to their families as well.

“She runs her own story,” Olivia’s mother Katie Jackson said. “She was born [weighing] a pound, and they told me that she had a 2% chance of making it. We will continue to fight and love on her until she tells us that she’s ready.”

Credit: Photographer Chris Glenn

Olivia’s mother says her daughter runs her own story. Sounds like brave little Olivia has a lot in common with Queen Elsa indeed.

 

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!