In fashionably late style and dressed in a sparkling black gown, Maggie Becker stepped out of a white limousine Friday evening and made her way to a red carpet at the Connecticut Street Armory.
It looked like a scene straight out of an episode of MTV's "My Super Sweet 16." Except Maggie is not an heiress to a throne, a daughter of a professional athlete or a movie star, like many of the wealthy teenage girls celebrating their birthdays on the drama-filled hit TV series.
Maggie, who will turn 18 today, is a volunteer firefighter and training to be an emergency medical technician in South Wales. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system.
"She never got depressed," said Maggie's mother, Susan Becker, at Maggie's dream birthday party organized by the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Western New York. "She found it to be a growing experience. Eighteenth birthdays are a celebration of a very important day for most kids, but for Maggie it is a celebration of life."
Maggie was all smiles as the cameras snapped shots of her walking down the red carpet.
"This means everything to me," she said. "This is my [time to] get over having cancer and start my life new. I remember my past, and it helps to make me stronger."
When Make-a-Wish officials first asked Maggie for her wish, she thought about meeting her favorite country music band, Rascal Flatts. But when it came down to it, she wanted to ring in her 18th year with her friends and family.
"I feel like having a party is more personal," she said. "I'm able to thank everyone for everything they have done for me."
About 100 people showed up in suits and gowns to the party. There was just one person missing. Maggie's hero, her father, Wayne Becker, passed away when she was 10 years old.
"My dad set the tone for my volunteering," Maggie said. "He was an awesome man and taught me that it's not just about myself."
Maggie, who recently graduated from East Aurora High School and will enroll in Erie Community College, hopes to study biomedical sciences.
Monday, she met with East Aurora Mayor David J. DiPietro, who presented her with a key to the village for being an honorary citizen.
She was shocked by the recognition. "I couldn't believe it. I don't think of myself as an honorary citizen," she said. "I'm just a regular girl."