Courtney Clarke wasn't given too many clues when her good friends called her up and said they wanted to do something nice for her daughter, Emma, who was battling cancer for the third time.
The little girl has endured so much in her six years, and her family has been along with her for the ride, spending more than 300 days in Ronald McDonald House in St. John's.
Brian and Amanda Critch, who graduated with Clarke, have also been "through all the trials and tribulations of life together," Clarke said.
A few weeks ago, the Critches called Clarke to say they wanted to do something special for Emma. They told her to dress warm and be ready to be picked up on Saturday.
"They said, '[We] want to do something special for Emma just to lift your spirits, just to say how much, you know, we think about her,' and we didn't really think much of it," said Courtney Clarke on Monday. Emma and her family were blindfolded until they got inside a barn at Dixie H Farms in Goulds.
Inside was a white horse adorned with pink and purple flowers, pink fur and a gold horn. Fairy-like music played in the background as Emma made her way to her favourite animal — a unicorn.
Emma wore a crown and held a sceptre and the horse wore a flower crown.
"She just immediately wanted to get on, which was shocking to us because ordinarily Emma would be shy around animals, especially a horse. But she got on and didn't want to get off," Clarke said.
"She's obsessed with unicorns and, of course, what little girl wouldn't love to have a ride on a magical unicorn?"
Brian Critch said when the idea came to him, he and his wife ran with it.
"I said to my wife a few weeks ago that Emma wanted to see a real unicorn and I said to my wife again, 'You know what? Emma is going to see a real unicorn if it's the last thing I do,'" Critch told CBC.
Many people went into making it happen, and Clarke said it's something she and her family will never forget.
A long hard road
Emma was diagnosed with a pediatric kidney cancer when she was 4½ years old. The disease robbed her of her left kidney but not her happiness.
The family thought she had beaten cancer twice, until a routine scan on Oct. 2 — before her sixth birthday — showed it had returned to her body.
Despite what she's been through, Clarke said her daughter is brave, tough, and in the end, still a child.
"She is quite anxious and nervous at times, of course. She's been through a lot but in general, day to day, she is living life to the fullest," she said.
"She just wants to have fun. She wants to just play toys and enjoy life.… She's brave and tougher than I could say, for sure."
Saturday's surprise allowed Emma to enjoy a magical moment without hospitals and treatment.
For Courtney Clarke, the good deed was magical, too.
"Emma's been through so much and, you know, as parents you have to kind of just sit and watch and help her get through it all and it's really hard," she said.
"So moments like this just let you forget about that for a few minutes."