Back in early November 2019, I received an email from Laura Bezemer (who actually didn’t even personally know Evanna and her family!). Laura filled me in on this family’s story and asked me if there was anything I could do to help. At that time our entire team was flat out planning 12 Days of Christmas and prepping all of our holiday content, etc. I knew we couldn’t take on much more as a team but I was so touched by Evanna’s story that I said at the very least I could connect her with the Fairmont Palliser and pay for the catering. I was stumped on how I could contribute more (especially from another province!) and that’s when I thought of Saarra from Blush & Co. Events. I worked with Saaraa before in the past and I knew she was the PERFECT person to help me pull this special day off for this incredible little girl.
So, today I’m going to share a little bit about Evanna with you along with ALL of the details of this special day celebrating her.
Evanna is 5 years old and lives in Calgary, Alberta with her parents Nick and Kierra and little brother Bennett. She was born with a congenital heart defect and airway complications — that to date has lead to 4 open-heart surgeries at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, followed by 2 open-heart surgeries that recently took place at Stanford Children’s Hospital in California with a string of other major surgeries and procedures along the way. After spending nearly 600 nights in the hospital, the ICU has almost become a second home to the family, and as a result, they’ve developed many meaningful relationships with the medical staff and private nurses that have become such an integral part of their home and family.
As trivial as it sounds, it was always in the back of Kierra’s mind that when Evanna was born with a severe & critical heart defect, she would atomically be eligible for a “wish trip”, and has been something that she has continued to think about for almost 6 years now. After every failed extubation (and reintubation) Evanna had as a baby in the PCICU at the Stollery in Edmonton, Kierra’s broken heart was held together by the thought that one day this would be a distant memory while their family would be having a blast at Disney World.
Recently, due to a series of unfortunate events, Evanna is now in serious heart failure that can no longer be fixed surgically. Her medical and surgical team met this past October to discuss transplant options, but unfortunately due to Evanna’s extreme surgical history, it was deemed that a heart-lung transplant would be too risky, with the high potential to do her more harm than good, and it was agreed that she is not an ideal candidate for a transplant of any kind. This has placed Evanna from a palliative path (that still contained “options”) into terminal territory. Evanna now requires the use of extreme respiratory support and many medications to help manage the symptoms of heart failure.
We teamed up with Blush & Co. Events to transform the Oval room at the Fairmont Palliser into a magical winter wonderland, inspired by the movie Frozen – one of Evanna’s (and Leo’s!) favorite Disney movies for an intimate gathering including 20 of Evanna’s closest family members, nurses, and doctors. This event was in true essence, a community of local vendors coming together to gift an experience by fulfilling Kierra’s dream of taking Evanna to Disney World.
The magic in the room was wonderfully captured by Jennie Guenard with a keen eye for detail, alongside R Tistry Photos who was able to capture all of the important moments with a short highlight video for the Irvine family and friends.
Back in December Kierra spent the day shopping at Adorn Boutique, settling on this beautiful eye-catching red dress while Princess Evanna was the star of the show in her Ana inspired dress made by a family friend!
Our high tea was served on a spectacular mirrored table accompanied by fairytale-like chairs with the most decadent glassware provided by Modern Luxe Rentals.Black and White Bakeshop served up a colorful and tasty lineup of cupcakes, while Sugar Shimmer blew us away with her Frozen themed cookies.
What would high tea be without our Disney line up? We were joined by Anna, Elsa, Rapunzel, and Spiderman outfitted by Princess Parties by Mimi – all based around a beautiful backdrop and white underlay by Y Not Event Graphics who did a breathtaking job in mimicking the snowy ambiance.
Although this event was centered around Evanna, we also wanted to make sure her younger brother Bennett was able to feel special. As you can see, Spider-Man from Princess Parties by Mimi was a huge hit and Bennett had a blast being in the presence of this favourite superhero!
Holly Loves Paper designed these incredible custom menus with built-in personalized place cards for each guest so they could find their seats- also to find their own personalized gift boxes created by Make Me Blush that they could take home as a keepsake from the event.
Custom Laser Works designed a beautiful template for Evanna’s name as it stood out beside trendy centerpieces created by Amborella Floral who brought everything together with the whimsical selection of florals that was the perfect complement to our winter wonderland theme.
Inside the personalized gift box created by Make Me Blush was a curated set of local goods such as Milk Jar’s candle, a camper mug by Prairie Pressed and a thank you cookie with the date of the event by Sugar Shimmer.
Mountain Grove Studio created a custom floral design for the Irvine family last year that includes four Alberta roses represent the four open-heart surgeries Evanna had undergone at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, and two California poppies represent the most recent two open-heart surgeries she has at the Stanford Children’s hospital. To make this event more meaningful, we chose to use this floral artwork in several design elements by incorporating it into the welcome sign and menu’s by Holly Loves Paper, the ‘Evanna’ candle label by Milk Jar, and the camper mugs by Prairie Pressed.
Milk Jar who will be selling the “Evanna” candle until the end of February with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the Heart Beats Foundation– an organization that provides support to Calgary and Southern Alberta CHD (congenital heart defect). The candle is made with lavender scent, which is near and dear to the family after learning that Kierra would diffuse lavender to soothe Evanna as a baby.
Nick and Kierra made it clear that Evanna’s happiness was of utmost priority to them and this shows by how much support they have received both medically and from their friends and families. Bringing Disney to Evanna brought everyone joy knowing they could be a part of someone so special and that after all – Evanna was our true princess at her winter wonderland High Tea!