Some parents in Ellis County are celebrating something good. Their little girl, Zoe, just turned five, and we were invited to her birthday party.
You'd think Zoe Knight was the guest of honor, and she was. But, a close second was Knight's very own fairy princess.
"She loves her, can't stop talking about her. Princess Aurora this; Princess Aurora that," said Shaun Knight, Zoe's proud dad.
Zoe was daddy's princess from the day she was born.
An unknown muscular disease brought challenges that required immediate and constant bravery. Shaun Knight says he will never forget what he heard in those early days: "I was told we were going to lose her, and here we are five years later, still fighting," he said.
Shelby Knight says the muscular myopathy comes from a rare gene her daughter carries and impacts her speech, eating and walking. Yet watching Zoe run around the gym at her birthday party, you’d never know you were looking at little girl living with an illness.
"There's never been another little person like her that has the form of this gene that she has and the illness that she has," Shelby Knight said. "She's in a lot of therapies that get her where she needs to be."
And, she's gotten there with Princess Aurora at her side.
They met two years ago. From day one, Zoe has believed the teenage girl dressed in a princess costume is the real deal.
"She really sees me as Princess Aurora. So, every time I write her a letter, or I send her a gift before surgery, I write it like, ‘To Zoe, From Princess Aurora,’” explained Rylea Fields, aka Princess Aurora.
"It's almost like a super power that comes into play, that Princess Aurora is her best friend, her teammate and they kind of fight through things together," Shelby Knight said.
One of those bonding moments happened a few weeks ago. Zoe was going in for another surgery. At the same time, Fields was having surgery on her ankle.
"So, I write her as Princess Aurora saying, 'Princess Aurora goes through these things as well. It's not just her. And she should feel strong and be empowered even though she has to go through all these difficult things," Fields recalled.
"The fact that she's only 15 is mind-blowing; that a 15-year-old, for her to have a heart of gold, to take on a 5-year-old little girl, to send her gifts, and she's so faithful to it," Shelby Knight said of Fields.
Rylea's mom, Lisa Fields, contacted NBC 5 about her daughter and the friendship she shares with Zoe. "I could tell you about Rylea's Ribbons and how she started that when she was in second grade and has continued it for the past eight years to help various individuals and non-profits. I could tell you how 8 years ago in second grade she adopted Walnut Creek Assisted Living and has delivered Christmas Stockings filled with goodies every year. I could tell you about how she serves as the Registration Chair for North Texas Angels Pageant, a non-profit who serves special needs individuals. I could tell you lots of things about our Rylea and how she has kept us busy with her heart to serve and give back but that isn't why I am writing. I am writing to tell you about Zoe, a special needs 4 year old who has stolen our Rylea's heart," Lisa Fields wrote.
Shelby says it's okay to share that Princess Aurora is really a 15-year-old sophomore from Mansfield. The magic won't fade just because others know what Zoe doesn't.
"We'll keep it going as long as Rylea feels like playing Princess aurora and Zoe believes in her," Shelby Knight said.
"You don't realize how may hearts you can touch by doing a small thing such as dressing up as Princess Aurora. Making her happy makes me extremely happy myself, just to see her face light up when I walk in the room," the teenager said.
"She doesn't realize how much she's touched my heart and how she's empowered me."
Spoken like a true princess.