TAMPA — It was a dream 15 years in the making.
Nicole Bermudez stepped out of the limousine, straightened the voluminous skirt of her white gown and took her place in line.
Her parents, Ernie and Saida Bermudez, walked into the hall first, followed by the rest of her family. And then, to a loud round of applause, Nicole was escorted into the Covadonga Room at the Centro Asturiano for her quinceañera.
“I love it,” she said after she saw the room. “It’s beautiful.”
Nicole was the “Queen of Hearts” at her Alice in Wonderland birthday party, and for a few hours everyone forgot her battle with a life-threatening disease.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation, in partnership with Ye Loyal Krewe of Grace O’Malley, granted Nicole’s wish for an elegant birthday party Saturday. One hundred of her closest friends and family members came together to celebrate her quinceañera, a Latin American tradition that marks a girl’s fifteenth birthday and transition to womanhood.
“They all are here and that makes it all the more better,” Nicole said.
Nicole was diagnosed in seventh grade with soft-tissue sarcoma, a condition in which tumors form in the in the soft tissues of the body. Her recovery has been “bumpy,” and it still is, she said.
She had to miss school and spent a full year in the hospital. During treatments she lost a lot of weight and all of her hair. Most recently, Nicole lost feeling in her left leg, but that didn’t stop her from sharing a dance each with her father and older brother during the party.
“I have friends and family here to help me with it, so it’s nice,” she said.
A team of 15 volunteers and Krewe members worked with Make-A-Wish staff to make the party perfect for Nicole. There was a DJ, a fog machine and a photo booth. There were balloons shaped into flowers, teacups on the tables and actors dressed up like Alice, the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter.
Nicole asked her family to wear white and blue, to match Alice’s dress and her own white ball gown with blue beading. After they all made their grand entrance, the family posed in front of the head table for photos.
Before dinner, Nicole’s father made a toast to thank everyone for helping make his daughter’s dream a reality.
“It’s really amazing how many people are here,” Ernie Bermudez said. “The Make-A-Wish Foundation did a great job. It’s unbelievable.”
The Krewe donated $7,000 to make the quinceañera possible, but after labor costs and other donations are considered, the party cost between $15,000 and $20,000, said Katie Wyatt, the foundation’s development and special events manager.
“It’s cool to have a wish that gets a lot of other people involved,” Wyatt said.
Nicole gave the volunteers an idea of what she wanted at the party. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie is one of her favorites.
“She’s very imaginative,” said 15-year-old Karina Jose, Nicole’s best friend. “She’s always pictured something like this.”
As the DJ played music, Nicole’s family and friends sat back and watched her enjoy her quinceañera.
Making her wish come true was equally special to the volunteers who helped make it happen. It was especially touching to Frank and Bella Mignone, two of the “wish granters” who acted as liaisons between Nicole’s family and Make-A-Wish.
Bella Mignone cried when Nicole walked into her party and had her first dance with her father.
“When you saw that look on her face when she walked in,” she said. “That was priceless.”