It probably didn’t rank alongside getting a new Charlie Bear for her collection, but for pageant-winning Lisburn schoolgirl Rachael Poots, being treated like a princess must have come close.
For her proud friends and family it was nothing short of “terrific”.
Seven-year-old Rachael, from Barley Hill on the Low Road, recently took the title in the junior section of the inaugural ‘Face of Inspirational Beauty’ pageant.
The event was the latest promoted by actor, model and dancer Taylor-Rae Hamilton, well known as organiser of the first ever Face of Northern Ireland Pageant.
Fort Hill Primary School pupil Rachael, who has autism and suffers from epilepsy, won the hearts of pageant judges at the recent grand final at Bellini’s in Newry.
There, among the audience as VIP guests, were mumMarie, dad Jeff, older brother Graham and older sisters Stacie and Jodie.
“Rachael has never done anything like this before,” said Marie. “It was a one-off.
“We weren’t sure she would do it, but we just did everything at her level and she just looked at it that she was a princess for the night.
“It was a lovely, lovely night; it was really nice.”
According to Marie, Rachael “loved” bringing her crown and sash into school after first qualifying for, and later winning at, the grand final.
An added adventure for Rachael on the night of the final was the family’s overnight stay in an hotel.
But it seems likely that another - for Rachael, unexpected - bonus, topped the lot.
Rachael collects Charlie Bears and what Marie describes as her daughter’s “obsession” with them extended as far as clutching to herself one of her 25-strong extended ursine family during the grand final.
“She collects them and we use them with her autism,” said Marie.
“When Rachael reached the grand final we contactedCharlie Bear and asked them for a wee message for her.”
Instead, along with a signed copy of their book, the manufacturers sent a new addition to Rachael’s collection, a special, limited-edition Charlie Bear called ‘Bibble’.
A grateful Marie was full of praise for them and no less so for pageant promoter Taylor-Rae.
“The things she is trying to get up and running for kids with special needs are terrific,” she said.