Two heart surgeries later, local girl performs as Nutcracker’s ‘Dancer for A Day’

For many families, the holidays aren’t really the holidays… until they’ve enjoyed a night out watching The Nutcracker. 

Yes, it’s that time of year again — the Colorado Springs Youth Ballet’s version of the iconic show at the Pikes Peak Center, and this year’s performance is extra special for one little girl and her family.

It’s The Nutcracker… with a twist.

This version is bringing the unique history of Colorado Springs to life. 

Set at Glen Eyrie Castle, the Palmers, the Penroses, the McCallisters and the other movers and shakers of the late 19th century are at the party.

Naturally, toy soldiers and giant mice come to life… and the Sugar Plum Fairy enchants the audience.

But 9-year-old Maggie Stephenson might be the most enchanting part of the whole night. 

Maggie is this year’s Nutcracker “Dancer for A Day.” The fourth grader at Chinook Trail Elementary School is also a patient at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She has undergone two open heart surgeries due to a congenital heart defect. One of her doctors referred her to the program. 

“Do people call you a tough cookie?” I asked. “Yeah? Why?” 

“Because of my heart surgery,” Maggie replied.

“They fixed one part of her defect, but she had another more complicated defect they tried to repair at the first surgery, and it did not improve the situation,” said her mother Dina Stephenson.

It’s all to correct a congenital heart defect discovered when Maggie was six-years-old. 

“They had me sing the song when she went under… I couldn’t finish the song. The nurses finished it for me,” said Stephenson. “What song was it? Five Little Ducks Laughing.” 

After round two, there was good news.

“Her heart is functioning within normal range now,” said Stephenson.

All this didn’t phase Maggie one bit. She’s just living the life, making new friends and making a real impact on those new friends. 

“In the midst of all the hustle and bustle and the preparations, she gives everybody in the cast a moment to have something else to think about, how this Nutcracker is going to make a very special memory for a really special someone,” said Donna Lorrig with the Colorado Ballet Society in Colorado Springs. “Maggie is more than ready to make her mark on the stage of the Pikes Peak Center.”

“I don’t know, I just feel famous,” Maggie said. 

FOX21 News at 9 p.m.

This is the seventh year of the Dancer for A Day program, which was all conceived by a Colorado Springs Youth Ballet dancer as her senior project. Its mission is to provide for a child battling a life-threatening illness to be able to experience the joy of being part of The Nutcracker cast.

You can see Maggie and the rest of the cast Wednesday at 7 p.m. or Thursday at 4 p.m. or 7 p.m. at the Pikes Peak Center.

>>Click here for ticket information.

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