Arriving at her castle in a pumpkin carriage pulled by two magnificent white horses, Amber Bowling turned to her mum and whispered in awe: “Is this all for me?”
It was a dream come true.
For a few precious hours Amber, 12, was no longer a schoolgirl facing a daily battle with a devastating illness.
She was a beautiful princess in a pastel pink dress that cascaded down around her Cinderella slippers and a silver tiara that sparkled in the winter sunshine.
And the magic didn’t stop there. Inside, the stately hall was decorated with balloons, flowers, and gold confetti, ready for Amber to enjoy afternoon tea with her royal family and a fellow princess.
The unforgettable day was arranged by Make-A-Wish UK, which has fulfilled the dreams of 15,000 seriously ill children in the past 35 years.
© Glen Minikin)
By supporting the Mirror’s Christmas Appeal, you can help to light up the lives of more children like Amber.
Mum of four Chantelle Cammack, who told the Mirror earlier this month of her daughter’s wish to be a princess for a day, said: “Amber loved every moment.
“I’ve never seen anyone so excited, she hasn’t stopped talking about it since.
“When we asked what she would wish for, she said straight away that she wanted to be a princess.
“She’s a real girly girl, so this was her perfect day. To Amber, everything is real, so as far as she was concerned, she spent the afternoon with a real princess. That is something she will never forget.”
Amber’s doctor contacted Make-A-Wish after she and brother Sheyne, 14, were diagnosed with life-limiting Batten disease within three months last year.
The illness attacks the nervous system and strips away basic skills most of us take for granted.
In the past week, Amber has lost the ability to walk unaided, and started stammering.
Even walking a few steps with help from her mum causes her immense pain. Eventually, she will lose the ability to walk, talk, and see.
Chantelle, 33, said: “My world ended when Amber was diagnosed so soon after Sheyne.
“Even the doctor was tearing up. It is such a cruel disease. When things deteriorate, it happens so fast.
“Amber is very sociable, but now she is reluctant to go to school because she is self-conscious about the fact she is struggling to walk and communicate.”
But Amber’s smile did the talking as her gleaming white carriage pulled up at Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire.
As the coach horses’ hooves clattered to a halt, she gave a regal wave before being helped into her wheelchair and posing for photo.
© Glen Minikin)
She then took a minute to meet horses Tosh and Daisy, before making her grand entrance through the gold double doors.
Chantelle said: “Amber loves horses.
“She used to ride before she became too ill. So when our wish-maker asked us how they could make the day really special, we said a horse and carriage.
“She loved every moment.”
Inside, the family tucked into a feast fit for royalty – finger sandwiches, pastries, jars of sweets, chocolate cake and cream scones.
But the highlight of Amber’s day was meeting another princess. She gasped with delight as she caught her first glimpse of Princess Amelia in her ruffled pink gown.
The pair exchanged courtly gossip and made plans for a night in with a host of Disney princesses.
© Glen Minikin)
Excited Amber forgot about her speech impediment as her sociable personality shone through.
When the princesses launched into a duet of Disney songs, starting with Amber’s favourite Let It Go from Frozen, the words flowed from her and her family and staff applauded.
“You’re a really good singer,” said Princess Amelia. “I am,” smiled Amber.
Chantelle’s eyes glistened as she watched Amber swapping smiles with brothers Sheyne, Mason, eight, and Cruz, five, as they enjoyed their day, with Sheyne trying on a crown.
For Amber’s mum, it was a welcome day of respite.
Chantelle, from Sheffield, was studying for a diploma in animal management but quit to meet her children’s complex care needs.
© Glen Minikin)
She is now a full-time mother. Her days begin at 5.30am to prepare Amber and Sheyne’s medication.
She sleeps on the sofa in the living room to be near Amber and Sheyne’s downstairs bedrooms so she can hear them if they have a seizure overnight.
Their younger brothers have found the ordeal equally difficult.
Chantelle said: “When Amber was diagnosed, I asked Mason if there was anything he wanted to ask the doctor. He said, ‘Can they save my brother and sister?’”
Tragically, that is one wish impossible to grant.
There is no cure for Batten disease.
But Amber’s day as a princess has given them both something to savour in the years ahead.
“I try not to let Batten disease rule our lives,” she said.
“But I am honest with the children. I had to explain to Sheyne that eventually he would go blind. He was so brave. He said, ‘At least I’ll remember your beautiful face, Mum.’
“It’s why today is so special.
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“Soon Sheyne and Amber won’t be able to do things like this.
“But when everything else is taken away, they will still have these memories.”
As the afternoon drew to a close, Princess Amelia gave each of the children a handful of magic dust to blow away so they could make one more wish.
What did Amber wish for? This time it’s a secret, but she told her new friend: “You’re the best princess ever.”
“Thank you,” Amelia replied. “But I think you are actually the best.”
As the kids bagged up sweets for the journey home, Chantelle asked Amber: “Did you enjoy your day as a princess?”
“Oh yes,” she grins. “But I still haven’t met my Prince Charming.”
Someone pointed out that she may have to kiss a few frogs first, and she seemed horrified at the thought.
“I don’t need a boyfriend,” Amber replied. “Boys can be a bit whiny.”
That isn’t an accusation that can be levelled at Amber, who approaches each new challenge with courage and kindness.
A day being treated like a princess is the least she deserves.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.