Miami ‘fairy godmothers’ surprise homeless teenager with magical quinceanera

22 April 2021, 16:54

Adriana Palma wears a tiara and ballgown on her quinceanera, her 15th birthday celebration
Virus Outbreak One Good Thing Homeless Quinceanera. Picture: PA

Each month, a group of volunteers celebrates the birthdays of children living at the Miami Rescue Mission homeless shelter.

More than 50 “fairy godmothers” came together to create a magical quinceanera party for a homeless Miami teenager.

Each month, a group of volunteers celebrates the birthdays of children living at the Miami Rescue Mission homeless shelter.

When they heard Adriana Palma was turning 15, a milestone birthday in Hispanic culture, they decided to go all-out with a Parisian theme.

Some paid for decorations, while a make-up artist, hair stylist and photographer all donated their services.

Two dozen volunteers attended the event, filling a table with presents, beaming as the teenager danced with her father in a pink gown and sparkling tiara fit for a princess.

Entering her magical quinceanera on her father’s arm, her tiara sparkling and her fuchsia ballgown trimmed with ruffles to perfectly match her cake, Adriana scanned the crowd for familiar faces.

Most of the guests were strangers.

But they would soon become like family – without them, this Parisian pink fairy tale of a 15th birthday party would never have come to life.

At least one very important person was missing – Adriana’s grandmother, who according to custom would have imparted wisdom and a special gift.

She remained in Mexico.

Adriana Palma wears a tiara and ballgown as she dances with her father, Noe Ramirez Huerta, on her quinceanera, her 15th birthday celebration
Adriana Palma wears a tiara and ballgown as she dances with her father, Noe Ramirez Huerta, on her quinceanera, her 15th birthday celebration (Caring Place@ Miami Rescue Mission via AP)

“Don’t worry,” a volunteer at the homeless shelter told Adriana before the February celebration.

“Today, we are all your godmothers.”

When the teenager left Mexico in early 2020, she looked forward to a new life in Miami with her parents and three younger brothers.

But when the pandemic hit, her father’s job disappeared.

Alone and impoverished, they spent four months living in their SUV.

Adriana and her brothers – hungry and unfamiliar with English – crammed in homework assignments whenever they could find wifi.

The Miami Rescue Mission had been inundated with housing requests after the pandemic, but in June they found a small apartment for the Palmas.

The family slowly adapted to new routines.

But Adriana’s 15th birthday was coming, a day she had dreamt of since she was a little girl.

Quinceaneras are revered in Hispanic culture and celebrated with all the gusto of a wedding.

But after her father lost his job, Adriana said: “I lost all hope of having one.”

Itzel Palma tried to console her daughter.

“We will be together as a family,” she told her.

“That will be my gift to you.”

Lian Navarro, a community development associate at Miami Rescue Mission, asks caseworkers every month for the names of children celebrating a birthday at the shelter.

Her nearly 60 volunteer Cover Girls, named after the protective covering of an umbrella, bring buns, balloons and small toys to ensure children are not overlooked.

When Ms Navarro, a Cuban American, heard of Adriana’s upcoming 15th birthday, she knew the importance of the occasion.

And she resolved to make the quinceanera happen.

Elle Montero and Tadia Silva, Miami estate agents and longtime Cover Girls, were used to pulling off events with scarce resources.

But as they scanned the bare room of a Miami church filled with nothing but a tree and a few tables, they thought: This is impossible.

Then they set out to do the impossible.

They had already settled on a Parisian theme, something feminine and floral, and remembered some vintage trunks with big brass buckles that Ms Silva had in storage.

They found small gold Eiffel towers, placed buns in delicate floral teacups, filled elegant glass jars with pastel macarons and sweet madeleines, and finished each table with pink floral centrepieces.

Nearly 50 Cover Girls joined in.

Some gave money, others donated food or services.

A make-up artist gave Adriana her very first make-up lesson, a hair stylist put her glossy, dark locks in soft curls and a professional photographer spent three hours capturing the event.

“We want them to have these memories. They have to believe they are worth all that because they are,” said Ms Silva.

“Some people don’t excel because they think they can’t do better because they’ve been conditioned that this is their fate, but little by little they get back on their feet.”

The Cover Girls stacked Adriana’s table with everything on her wish list, bracelets and purses, pyjamas and gift cards, laughing like proud aunties as she peeled off the wrapping paper.

She danced with her father, swaying under the palm trees to Ed Sheeran’s Photograph as many of her new godmothers wept with joy.

As the party was about to end, Adriana tucked handwritten notes into each hand; in her halting English, she thanked her godmothers for the magical memories.

“I felt like a princess,” she said.

By Press Association