Five-year-old Layla Katzel will start kindergarten at Brookswood’s Belmont Elementary this fall.

Langley ‘princess’ has wishes come true

A young Brookswood girl will have a small-scale wish granted at a Sunday fundraiser and a bigger one next spring.

Every night, Layla Katzel picks from one of her eight princess-themed nighties, climbs into bed, and waits for Mom to sing her to sleep with an appropriately themed song from a princess movie.

If Christine fails to match up a correct song with the themed nightie, Layla will simply place her hand over her mother’s mouth, point to her pajamas, and wait for Christine to rectify her mistake and start singing again.

It’s a ritual for the five-year-old who jumps at any chance to dress up as one of her favourite princess.

Lately, Mom said, it’s been a toss up between Jasmine and Cinderella for top billing.

Well, unbeknownst to this little Brookswood girl, she’s been given a special invitation to adorn her favourite princess frock this weekend, and attend a “royal party” hosted – in part – in her honour in her hometown of Langley.

Layla’s presence has been requested at the Children’s Wish Foundation Princess & Pirates Tea Party this Sunday at Cascades Casino. And that, in itself is a wish come true for Layla, explained Christine.

This will be the first time that “princess Layla” and her entourage – namely her six-year-old sister Annie, nine-year-old sister Charlie, her mother, and her grandma, Jennie – have been asked to attend this event.

This party is a chance for children of all ages to welcome a little magic into their lives and let their creativity run wild, Jennifer Petersen said of the fundraiser for the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada’s B.C. and Yukon chapter.

The event, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., includes a “magical” afternoon of high tea and treats, as well as a variety of activities and entertainment “that are sure to thrill,” said Petersen, who is director of the foundation.

It’s sure to be a bright spot in Layla’s summer, insisted Christine, who explained that her youngest daughter always has a smile on her face and is happily oblivious to much around her – unless, of course – it has something to do with princesses.

“We very much love princesses in our house,” Christine said, noting that even though Layla’s older sisters are now more into hockey, they too get into the “princess spirit” for Layla.

Layla was born with Down syndrome and battled acute myeloid leukemia into remission three years ago.

Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada learned of this “remarkable” little Langley girl when she was undergoing treatment for the cancer. It is customary, Christine explained, that Children’s Wish families are given five years to accept their wish, and in Layla’s case, the family held off making their request until some of Layla’s health concerns were in check.

She had her first abdominal surgery at one day old, then at 20 months old was diagnosed with the leukemia and started a six-month regime of chemotherapy.

Then a year ago this weekend, she had open-heart surgery to correct a birth defect common in people with Down syndrome.

Now that she is healthy, Christine and Bryson Katzel have requested – on behalf of Layla – a family travel wish.

Next spring, they’re hoping to travel to a Disney-themed resort in Hawaii, a destination they’d planned to escape to twice in past. But both times the trips were cancelled due to health issues with Layla.

Consequently, the closest thing the Katzels have had to family vacation thus far has been a week-long camping trip they returned from Tuesday. But thanks to Children’s Wish, that will all change next April.

By recently applying for their specific wish, Layla has now been put on the Children’s Wish radar for inclusion in other foundation events, as well. That includes this weekend’s princess and pirates party.

The event is actually a fundraiser for Children’s Wish. Admission is $25 each, with children younger than three years old getting in free.

Tickets are available in advance at 778-383-1411 or online.

“A longstanding favourite amongst Children’s Wish supporters of all ages, this event is aimed at bringing the imaginations of young princesses, pirates, kings, and queens to vivid life with an unforgettable, enchanting experience,” Petersen said.

While the annual event typically raises about $6,000 a year for Children’s Wish, this year will be different, she explained.

This time out, thanks to sponsorships from Audi Finance and Volkswagen Finance, the organization is hoping to raise close to $12,000.

Children’s Wish grants – as the name implies – wishes for children living with high-risk, life-threatening illnesses and their families. In the past 32 years, they’ve granted more than 24,000 wishes and countless smiles, Petersen said.

“Already this year, we are experiencing unprecedented increases of wish referrals through our strong medical community relationships for our wishes granted to children with life-threatening illnesses,” she added.

This year, the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada (www.childrenswish.ca) expects to grant more than 1,000 new wishes across the country with the help of volunteers and donors; that is approximately three wishes each and every day, all year long, she elaborated.

The local chapter has already granted close to 60 wishes in 2016, and more than 1,500 since it began.

CAPTION: Five-year-old Layla Katzel tried to join in on her big sister’s baseball game recently.

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