- Najja Parker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
One mother wanted to grant her daughter one wish before she underwent her fourth open-heart surgery. Her request? The girl asked to “marry” her best friend.
Sophia Chiappalone, a 5-year-old from Connecticut, was born with several heart defects that have caused her to go under the knife three times already.
Ahead of her fourth one, scheduled for January 2018, her mom, Kristy Somerset-Chiappalone, wanted to put a smile on her girl’s face to keep her mind off the procedure.
"It became apparent that her heart wasn't looking as well as they would like and we knew she needed treatment," the single mom of three told ABC News. "So I asked Sophia, 'What do you want to do? Do you want to go to an indoor water park? Do you want to go on a shopping spree, maybe get some toys?' And she said she wanted to be a princess and marry Hunter."
Hunter Laferriere, 6, and his mother, Tracy Laferriere, were completely on board with the idea. So Laferriere hired Sassy Mouth Photography to give the besties a mock wedding photo shoot.
Decked out in a flower girl’s dress and veil, provided by a local bridal shop, Sophia pranced around a park with Hunter.
As the camera flashed, the two played in the autumn leaves and showered each other with kisses on the cheek.
"Just seeing Sophia's smile, he didn't complain once," Hunter's mother said. "He was genuinely having a fun time. They were laughing together, tickling, swinging and on the slides. I think he really enjoyed it. I think it makes him happy to see her happy."
The moment brought joy to Sophia’s mom, too, but she was also a bit sad.
"I'm trying to be strong for Sophia,” she admitted. “In reality, she's slipping into heart failure more and more, and this might be the only time I ever see her in a wedding dress. That was going through my head."
Despite the mixed emotions, she’s full of hope.
"I wish that she keeps her fighting spirit,” Somerset-Chiappalone said. “And I hope she never loses her quality of life ... no matter what the end result is."
The family launched a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of future medical bills.