ORLANDO, Fla. (WIVB) – Six weeks after a little girl thought a bride at Akron Falls Park was Cinderella, she’s meeting the real deal, thanks to donations from strangers.
Layla Lester, 6, had a special one-on-one meeting with Cinderella at Disney World Tuesday morning.
“I don’t think she knew to do,” said Layla’s mom, Jessica Lester. “She just wanted to touch her and hug her, and she’s very excited.”
Of course, this wasn’t the first time Layla has thrown herself into Cinderella’s arms.
Back in October, she was at Akron Falls Park with her family when she spotted bride Olivia Spark getting wedding photos taken.
Lester thought Spark was her favorite glass-slippered gal.
She just goes running over, arms wide open, [yelling] “Cinderella, Cinderella!”‘ Jessica Lester said last month.
In that moment, Spark embraced Lester, starting a fairy tale friendship that has continued well beyond that meeting.
“She couldn’t come to her birthday last weekend, because she was working, but she’s come and seen her many times. She’s brought her presents, and they’re true friends. They’ll be seeing a lot of each other,” Jessica Lester said Tuesday morning.
That friendship is extra special for Layla, who has autism, and doesn’t always know how to interact with people.
With Olivia, it’s different.
“She’s a princess. She truly is a princess,” Jessica Lester said of Spark. “She’s kind and sweet, and she just loves Layla and treats her like she’s known her for years.”
Their story has touched a lot of hearts.
After coverage of their meeting was shared around the country, donations started pouring into a GoFundMe account one of Spark’s family members had set up to help send the Lesters to Disney World to meet Cinderella in real life.
That campaign raised more than $23,000.
“I cried a lot. It was very touching. We never expected anyone to throw everything at us like that and want Layla to have such a good experience,” Jessica Lester said.
For Layla, the experience was about more than just meeting one of her favorite Disney princesses, it was a chance to become a princess herself.
Layla got the full makeover treatment Tuesday at Disney’s Bippity Boppity Boutique.
“We’re so incredibly grateful, and we just don’t know how to thank everybody,” Jessica Lester said. “It’s been overwhelming, but in an amazing way.”
Now, Layla is getting set up for a nice happily ever after thanks to the money from the GoFundMe campaign.
Everything the Lesters aren’t spending on their Disney trip is being put into a trust fund to take care of Layla’s future needs.
“That’s a big worry with a lot of autism families, is what’s going to happen if I’m not here for my child,” Jessica Lester said. “So I’m glad that we have a little something for her when we’re not here.”
The Lesters will continue their Disney World vacation through the end of this week.