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For girl with cancer, dancers make birthday better

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Royal Oak — While Tessa Prothero was having a dance party in her bedroom with her family Monday evening, little did she know that 300 other dancers, including family and friends, were minutes from performing a flash mob dance in front of her home to celebrate her birthday.

The hope was that it would cheer up Tessa, 9, who is battling brain cancer. Judging from the look on her face, the dance worked.

Will Thomas leads a group of local dancers Monday in a flash mob for Tessa Prothero for her ninth birthday at her home in Royal Oak.

“Good,” Tessa declared shyly after watching the performance set to Meghan Trainor’s “Better When I’m Dancin.” A crowd holding signs and red balloons followed the routine with a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

Tessa admitted feeling shy as she and her family stepped out on their porch. But swept up in the moment, she asked for an encore performance and joined in as her cousin William Prothero held her in his arms.

The flash mob was the idea of Gilda’s Club, a Royal Oak-based organization that offers free support for cancer patients and their families.

“It was amazing. It grew bigger than I expected,” said Will Thomas, a professional dancer who trained the participants for Monday’s routine. Thomas, a finalist from “So You Think You Can Dance” TV dance competition, is the brother of a Gilda’s Club staffer.

Robert Prothero holds his daughter Tessa, 9, who is a bit stunned, as they watch a flash mob dance in front of their home with brother Jay and mother Karin in Royal Oak.

Tessa, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma 31/2 years ago. She’s going through a rough stretch and is unable to walk, said Laura Varon Brown, executive director of Glida’s Club.

“She’s still fighting,” said Tessa’s mother, Karin Prothero, 36. “We’re doing different clinical trials and hoping the next one will get her clear.”

Robert Prothero, 39, said he believes the flash mob helped his daughter, who had been feeling depressed recently.

“This made her feel good today,” he said. “This brightened her spirits up.”

Among the flash mob dancers was Julia Kirkpatrick, 15, from Next Level Dance Studio in Troy. “This gave us a chance to dance for something good,” she said. “I think the goal was to make her happy.”

Tessa’s family and friends also got in on the dancing action.

“I was following the man in front of me,” said family friend Nancy Miller, 62, of Oak Park. “When he went down, I went down.”

Miller said Tessa and her family deserved such a birthday surprise.

“They’re a wonderful family,” she said. “They are so loving. What goes around, comes around.”

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