April 7, 2014
An Albemarle County native and now Liberty University student is making little girls feel like royalty. In this week’s Stephanie’s Heroes, CBS19’s Stephanie Satchell is featuring Lauren Hensley.
Hensley started an honorary princess program in Albemarle County. She crowns young girls who have disabilities and gives them the pageant experience that they otherwise might not get.
When Lauren Hensley is home visiting from Liberty University, you can often find her spending time with one of her honorary princesses.
In March, Lauren crowned 2014 princess Belle Shifflett at the Annual Miss Albemarle County Pageant.
“We like to get girls that we know might be a little insecure about things or parents might be insecure just to reassure them that they are a princess and we do want them there. We want them to be involved in our community,” said Lauren Hensley, Honorary Princess Program Founder.
Belle Suffers from a host of medical conditions like cerebral palsy, dysplasia, dystonia, fetal alcohol syndrome and was also born addicted to multiple drugs.
Roxanne Brown is in the process of adopting the 4-year-old. She says being named an honorary princess has made such a huge impact on Belle.
“She's real proud of herself when she's got her sash and tiara on and she'll tell you when it's hanging up. She’ll tell you that's my tiara,” said Roxanne Brown, Belle’s Adopted Mother.
Little Belle has Lauren Hensley to thank. Hensley started this princess program in 2007 to honor her Godsister Kelli who wanted to compete but couldn’t due to health problems.
Now Lauren hopes to expand the effort into other counties.
“I saw the effect it’s still having on them... the impact it had on others. I think it's also great for the other county princesses to have that experience with the girls that may not be considered normal in the community's eyes. But it's an awesome experience for them to know how to interact with people that might be a little bit different than them,” said Hensley.
Whether it’s being on stage, visiting princesses at the hospital or playing with Belle’s favorite My Little Pony toys, Lauren Just enjoys being able to make a difference.
“It is so rewarding to see just their smiles to know that they're doing something where they feel special. They know that people love them and that they care for them. It's just extremely rewarding,” said Hensley.
Many people in the community call Lauren a hero for what’s she’s done for these girls and the opportunities that she has created.
“It takes a special person like that to create a program like this for girls who doesn’t have the opportunity to feel special and she gives them that opportunity to feel special and to feel like they are somebody and it's ok to have a disability and I can still do everything I want,” said Brown.
Bella is demonstrating that she can do everything she wants.
Despite her challenges, she’s a bubbly little girl and determined to achieve her dreams.