Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct Sophia Liriano's age and grade.
It was smiles all around on Feb. 23, when Sophia Liriano, 10, a fifth-grader at Metairie Academy, walked into a private room at Barcadia on Tchoupitoulas Street for a Krewe of Muses pre-parade party.
The child, who has overcome severe birth defects requiring multiple surgeries in her young life, was greeted by cheers and hugs as the riders on the Muses "Flamingo" float welcomed her to the gathering where they first don their costumes before boarding the float.
The child's surprise: She was about to be transformed into a Muse for a day as well.
In 2014, Sophia was chosen as the "champion" to represent the Louisiana in the Champions Across America Program of the Children's Miracle Network. She was selected from among millions of children treated through the network hospitals in the United States, including Children's Hospital, where Sophia receives care.
Sophia was given a less than 25 percent chance of survival when she was born with heterotaxia, a rare and severe heart and organ defect. Her heart was on the wrong side of her body, requiring multiple surgeries. She also has had to endure stomach surgeries.
On this Carnival afternoon, however, it was party time. Her mother Kelly Usery, whisked her away from school to the "Flamingo" float pre-parade party where she was warmly greeted with hugs by the krewe members, who then proceeded to dress her in a costume of a mile-high yellow wig and shiny blue shift - a mini version of the riders' get-ups.
Along with her costume and party, the krewe gave her a certificate, a krewe shirt and, of course, a glittery shoe.
Sophia munched on French fries and a burger as she giggled and mingled with krewe members and posed for photos with members of the Rolling Elvi, who happened to drop by. Then, she boarded the yellow school bus to ride with krewe members to the loading site.
As the state representative of the Champions Across America Program, she and her family work to raise awareness about the nonprofit Children's Hospital that helps families like her's.
On Tuesday (March 7), look for Sophia on WWL-TV morning news, where she will promote National Pancake Day at IHOP. Each February, the restaurant gives away pancakes to raise money for children's charities, including the nonprofit Children's Hospital.