Community surprises 8-year-old battling cancer with princess-themed parade


CULLMAN COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — The Cullman County community made sure one little girl got her wish.

8-year-old Lillie Handley had never seen a real parade. She’s now in hospice care, battling cancer. But, the community rallied around her to help her in her time of need and gave her the surprise of a lifetime.

Handley sat on her mother’s lap in their front yard as, one by one, cars, trucks, carriages, and horses passed by. Many slowing to offer candy, gifts, encouragement, and love.

For five years, Lillie has been battling Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer. After different treatments and years of fighting, doctors recently gave her a grave prognosis.

“It’s hard. Very hard. But with God, we can make it,” Dennis Haynes Lillie’s Grandfather said. “I’ve never seen a little girl so strong and always, always has that beautiful smile.”

Having never attended a parade, her church organized something small for the Disney princess-loving 8-year-old. But after word got out on social media, folks came from far and wide to participate. The result was an hour-long procession where Lillie played the part of a real-life princess, waving, laughing with fellow royals, and flashing adoring fans her smile.

Cullman County Sheriff’s Deputies estimate around 800 people were in this parade for Lillie. They say they were at this intersection for close to three hours directing traffic. Lillie’s family says it’s more than they could’ve imagined.

“It’s just, I don’t even have words. I mean, it’s breathtaking, honestly, and just amazing,” Kelly Handley, Lillie’s mom said. “So many people have heard about Lillie and her journey and they just wanted to love on her.”

“I mean we, we’re just blown away at the way the community’s come out,” Dennis Haynes said. “Words can’t say what we feel in our heart for everyone.”

Her grandfather says Lillie touches lives. To her family, she’s a princess every day. Thanks to the community, for a few hours on Wednesday, Lillie lived a little like royalty.

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