(Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)
Caroline Taylor, 5, of Caraway, was a true princess for a day as guests and friends came to see her dreams come true with a special trip to Disney World in Florida.
Make-A-Wish Foundation volunteers greeted the Taylor family at the door of Cowboy Grill in Caraway Sunday afternoon and gave them the wonderful news that the entire family was going to Disney World during spring break.
Sleeping Beauty Kelsey placed a tierra on Caroline's head as Bethany Tynes, playing Walt Disney character Bell, from Beauty and the Beast, escorted her into the party consisting of more than 80 close friends and family.
"We interviewed Caroline and her family last December, when she was a patient at St. Jude's Research Hospital, in Memphis," Foundation coordinator Sharon Haggenmacher said. "It didn't take us long to realize that Caroline wanted to go to Disney World and play with the dolphins. We have been waiting until she got well enough to make the trip."
"We wanted to do something special for Caroline, as she is so brave and has been through so much these past months," said volunteer Karen Forester.
The trip to Disney World will also include a stay at "Give Kids the World" and trips to Universal and Sea World.
Her parents, Curtis and Lisa Tilley Taylor, and 11-year-old sister Lauren were on hand to help Caroline celebrate. Lauren supervised the opening of special gifts as Caroline examined each one carefully.
"We have had a long hard journey from last October until now," said Mrs. Taylor. "Caroline began losing her balance and stumbling, and we didn't know what was causing it. We had Caroline's doctor examine her, and he recommended a CAT scan. That is when he found the brain stem tumor.
"We took her to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, then to St. Jude in Memphis. They treated her so wonderfully at St. Jude and saw to it the needs of our family were met also. We stayed at the Ronald McDonald House while she was being treated. They tried everything to reduce the tumor and to make her comfortable."
"Caroline has undergone chemotherapy and radiation and has been an awful sick little girl at times," her dad said. "When she hurts, we all hurt. It is an awful feeling being so helpless."
"We appreciate all that St. Jude and the people of Caraway have done to help us," her mother said. "I don't know what we would have done without help. Knowing people really care means so much. This has brought us all so close together."
Grandfather Royal Tilley of Monette brought the first smile to Caroline's face when he began to talk about the dolphins she was going to see at Disney World.
"She just loves dolphins, and has since she was just a very little girl," Mr. Taylor said. "She has always wanted to pet one, or swim around with them. She may get to do that on this trip."
"Health permitting, Caroline will be able to get up close and perhaps in the water with the dolphins," said volunteer Stephanie Jenkins.
"She always likes to dress up and look pretty," her grandmother Jill Tilley said. "She loves putting on crowns and feeling like a princess. We all treat her like one."
"Before Caroline got sick she was a very spunky and active little girl," Tilley said. "She loved to wrestle and roll around the floor. She has a pet cat, she calls Slick, and they are good friends. She loves to ride her bicycle and go over to the city park near our home.
"I have never seen a child so good at putting puzzles together. She has a system for doing that. She'll take a 100 piece puzzle, start with the center pieces and work outward."
Caroline's cancerous tumor has been like a big puzzle to the whole family. They have seen the research team start from its center and work outward, doing all they can to make Caroline whole again. The process has been painful, time consuming, stressful and expensive. The entire Taylor family has done everything possible to provide a positive and well-nurtured quality of life for Caroline, and all those who love her so much.
"We plan to do as many fun things together as time and health will allow," Mrs. Taylor said. "We are going to make the most of this, and make a lot of happy memories as a family."