By SHERRI KOLADE
DEARBORN — Deanna Rocha is no average princess.
The pint-sized 6-year old Dearborn resident has been through a lot in her life, dealing with multiple surgeries, learning to walk with physical impairments after being wheelchair bound and growing up with cerebral palsy.
But the little girl with flowing dark hair and deep brown, inquisitive eyes uses those limitations as a bridge to get to her next destination — all the while donning the bubble gum pink princess shoes that match her ballroom-style princess dress she wears religiously over her school clothes.
Deanna’s next step involves National American Miss, a statewide invitation-only pageant that is rooted in teaching girls ages 4 to 18 poise, self-confidence and communication skills, according to the website www.namiss.com.
Deanna said she is excited to participate at the event scheduled to take place July 26 to 28 at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn.
“I would like to be there,” Deanna said during an in-home interview. “It is fun to do because you get to be dressed up, get your hair done and your clothes are pretty and you’ll be pretty.”
Deanna’s mother, Veronika Rocha, gently corrected her daughter, telling her she is already pretty.
The only potential roadblock preventing Deanna from competing in the National American Miss Princess category is a financial one, Veronika Rocha said.
The sponsor fee to enter the competition is $440, which includes the cost of pageant production, awards, trophies and other program fees.
Veronika Rocha said she raised about $75 toward the sponsor fee but needs help with the rest.
“I went to a couple of the places that I knew of to ask for help for donations,” Veronika Rocha said. “Bigger corporations have not gotten back to me and I am like ‘What are we going to do now?’”
With childlike optimism, Deanna answered her mother, saying she hopes people will donate to her sponsor fee out of the goodness of their hearts.
“I want people to donate the money because they want to be nice,” Deanna said. “And because I asked them nicely.”
Veronika Rocha said the pageant will help her build much needed confidence because only in certain circumstances her true personality shines through.
“I think the pageant will help her get out of her (shell),” Veronika Rocha said. “It would definitely help her not be as shy. She is confident (at home) but somewhat different when we are out.”
At school when Deanna Rocha walks through the halls and older schoolmates say hello to her, her mom said, she tends to hold her head down, though in her classrooms she is talkative.
But bullies in or out of school have not been an issue when her older, protective brother, 8-year-old Anthony Rocha, is on the case, Veronika Rocha said.
“He is actually a very big help,” Veronika said of her son. “As he got older if kids say anything (about his sister) he is right on it. When it comes to if she needs, help he is there.”
Veronika Rocha added that when Deanna first received the invitation to compete in the pageant by letter in March, Anthony was worried more than his sister was.
“He was afraid they were not going to accept her for her physical disability,” Veronika Rocha said. “She is the only child there with a physical disability.”
Deanna’s physical disability is just another part of her life that she learned to deal with and overcome, Veronika Rocha said.
“She has come a long way,” she said. “Five different doctors told me she will never be able to walk, be potty trained, she will be in a wheelchair her whole entire life…”
But that is certainly not the case, because now Deanna daintily walks around her house in her pink bubble gum-colored princess shoes, where just one year ago, she was bound to leg and foot braces that restricted her in many ways and before that a wheelchair.
While Deanna is in braces and needs help in different capacities every day, the little princess wants to get dolled up and walk across the National American Miss stage and earn her spot in a competition that looks for qualities that are the very lessons she has learned and is still learning every day.
For more information on sponsoring Deanna call 313-595-0625.
(Sherri Kolade can be reached at [email protected].)