A brave 5-year-old Rhode Island girl who is battling aggressive kidney cancer got the chance to leave her troubles at the door when a photographer caught wind of her story and invited her to a Disney princess-themed photoshoot.
The Woonsocket-based family was blown away by the photography results.
Arianna’s father, Ryan Taft, 32, told The Epoch Times that the journey so far has been “overwhelming,” both in terms of the little girl’s diagnosis and the outpouring of love and support the family has received.
Ryan said his daughter was diagnosed with aggressive kidney cancer in May this year. Arianna woke up with a softball-sized lump on her side one morning.
It turned out to be a 13-centimeter tumor on her kidney, both of which were successfully removed. But Arianna needed chemotherapy to target cancer that had already spread to her second kidney, lungs, liver, and lymph nodes. The little girl’s brave smile, prayer chains, and well-wishes helped ease the family’s heartbreak.
Ryan, his partner, Taylor, 28, and Arianna’s siblings—Adrian, 8, and Aaliyah, 12—were introduced to specialist photographer Ashley Richer by their landlord’s family.
Ashley offers free sessions for children battling serious illnesses. Before teaming up with Arianna for her special Disney photoshoot, she had worked with five children with cancer. She told The Epoch Times that anyone within a drivable distance to Rhode Island is welcome to contact her to set up a session.
“I hope these sessions give them the extra hope and courage they need during these difficult times,” Ashley said.
The Disney movie “Frozen” was Arianna’s comfort blanket during her 12-day hospital stay for surgery, so when Ashley gave Arianna the chance to transform into her favorite character, Elsa, it was a dream come true.
Ashley also supplied costumes for the characters Merida from “Brave,” Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” and Snow White, the last of which a delighted Arianna got to keep.
Through the magic of editing, Ashley was able to place Arianna into an array of magical scenes from her favorite movies.
Ashley came to photography after a rare, serious health ordeal of her own in 2010. She found her calling doing photo sessions for sick children after her son’s friend died from a terminal illness in 2017.
“I felt like I needed to do something to lift these kids’ spirits,” Ashley told The Epoch Times. “What is more special than magic? If I can help them believe in magic, they can believe in anything.”
Ashley said she aims to encourage these children in believing that “it is possible to beat small odds, miracles happen every day!”
Arianna was “a little shy” during her shoot, Ashley admitted, but soon channeled the strength of her favorite heroines and sent a message to children everywhere with the statement that bald can be a princess, too.
“It was magical! She truly looked like a princess,” Ashley said.
Ryan said the entire family was “overwhelmed” to see the magical photographs.
“My jaw hit the floor seeing my little girl as the star character from all of her favorite Disney princess movies. The way she transformed our princess into a real Disney princess was incredible.”
“She is a saint and does incredible work,” the proud dad said. “The pictures she created were magical and we will cherish them forever.”
As Arianna lost hair during her chemotherapy treatment, the 5-year-old’s family turned her hair loss into a shared affair. Taylor cut her own hair first, said Ryan, letting all three children help out.
Bolstered by the support, Arianna then happily had her own head shaved.
Ryan, Arianna’s grandmother, her aunt, and her cousins also cut their hair in support of their “brave, beautiful” girl.
“The smile on [Arianna’s] face as she was buzzing Taylor’s head was huge,” Ryan recalled.
At the time of writing, Arianna is doing well. Her father said the family is “waiting on her counts” to rise enough to resume chemotherapy; the little girl has three cycles left to complete.
Ryan praised his daughter’s “absolutely amazing” medical team at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and the Tomorrow Fund Clinic for their love and compassion.
“The care and compassion that they have shown Ari and our family will forever be appreciated. She really feels like a princess in their care,” Ryan said.
Yet Arianna is the true glue that holds the family’s spirits together.
“Arianna is the strongest, bravest little Princess and has really been our rock through this all,” Ryan said.
“Even during treatment and during any hospital stays, she’s constantly laughing, playing, and putting a smile on the face and in the hearts of everyone around her,” Ryan said. “No one can be sad when she is so happy all the time.”
The family has a GoFundMe account to help support Arianna’s ongoing fight against cancer. Ryan’s advice to other parents caring for a sick child is to cherish every moment, and know that they are not alone.
“The love and support we have received from friends, family, and total strangers has been incredible,” he said, “and is an example of the good in the world.”
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