UPPERCO — Roller skates are not like bicycles: Those without recent experience tended to wobble like newborn gazelles after strapping on their skates at Upperco's Sportsman Hall on Thursday.
But Sarah Brooks, who turns 5 on Wednesday, April 19, was not among them. The little girl in the yellow princess dress and a head full of curls was so steady and quick on her skates that she was helping other children back up from their falls.
And yet, just a few years ago it wasn't clear, her doctors said, that Sarah would ever walk properly, much less skate. And she certainly didn't have a full head of hair.
"Sarah was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma July 1 of 2013, and she underwent 45 weeks of chemotherapy," said Sarah's mother, Kenyatta Brooks. Brooks wears a shirt with two photos of Sarah — one, from the time of Sarah's treatment when she was bald, and one more recent, with a full head of hair.
"I'm so happy to be here," Brooks, of Taneytown, said. "We're in a much better place."
Sarah's cancer has now been in remission since the summer of 2014 and her friends and family had gathered at Sportsman Hall to celebrate a very special announcement — Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic awarding Sarah and her family with an all-expenses paid trip to Walt Disney World.
"We are all here because Sarah is cancer free, and we are all here to skate and celebrate with her," Brooks said. "We're just happy and celebrating life."
Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic is the local arm of the global Make-A-Wish Foundation, according to Marketing and Communications Manager Kellie Wyatt. Make-A-Wish grants wishes, she said, to bring hope to children facing any potentially life-threatening illness.
"We define life-threatening medical conditions as those conditions that are progressive, degenerative or malignant," Wyatt said. "Sarah — I'm really glad she was introduced to us early on in her cancer diagnoses, I hope that the wish was something she was able look forward to even at a young age."
Taking a break from skating and playing Thursday, Sarah sat on the lap of her father, Joe Brooks, and talked about what she was looking forward to the most about Disney World.
"I'm going to get some snow," she said. "They shoot snow out."
Sarah will also be getting a princess makeover, according to Wyatt.
"We try to create the most magical experience for that child and what would be magical for them," Wyatt said. "I know for Sarah, she will be doing the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique when she goes to Disney World and she will get her own princess makeover to make her feel like the little princess that she is."
But as nice as it may be to have a wish to go to Disney World fulfilled, Joe Brooks said the greatest gift is being together as a family.
"I am feeling really good about everything that has transpired for her, and for us as a family," he said. "Sarah has taught us all so many different lessons about life itself. About just being able to dance in the rain."
Sarah, Joe Brooks added, kept smiling through all the long weeks of her difficult cancer treatment.
Just a few days before the skating party celebration, according to Kenyatta Brooks, Sarah pointed up to the sky and said: "There's a special star in the sky for me. Can't you see it? It looked out for me when I had cancer."
"We just about cried," Brooks said.