HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - When you think of a young star, who do you think of? Miley Cyrus? Selena Gomez?
One rising star from right here in Huntsville is overcoming tremendous odds to pursue her passion.
For 9-year-old Darby Jones, there is nothing like being on stage. She loves the lights ,the applause and all eyes on her.
"It makes me feel great, happy and always makes me feel excited," said Darby.
She is a born performer. She was also born a number physical challenges.
"She was born prematurely at 32 weeks," said her mother Valerie Jones. "She had fetal transient leukemia, Down Syndrome and a heart defect. The first leukemia passed at six months, but she was diagnosed with another form at two. She had heart surgery at four months old and she was cancer free for six years and relapsed at nine."
Every week for a year and a half she had to travel to Children's Hospital in Birmingham for treatment. Now she only has to go once a month.
Darby's mom says through it all, she has been a ray of light.
"Darby is the most optimistic and happiest, well adjusted, faith filled person I know," said her mom.
Darby has had roles in a few Merrimack productions, but this year she is the star of the upcoming holiday performance "My Holiday Wish."
The performance is part of the Dance Your Dreams Program, a free, weekly dance education program for special needs kids.
"These children really don't have the opportunity to be around other children in a recreational setting, so we really want to make this a fun experience for them and give everyone the opportunity to participate in the arts," said instructor Ashley Dinges.
Each child is provided with dance shoes, dance attire and costumes. They are also paired with a volunteer instructor who helps them.
"She was very sick at the time she started, but I brought her anyway and it would just bring a smile to her face when nothing else would during that first year," said Valerie.
And this weekend all eyes will be on Darby as she takes center stage, but what she wants people to see is that despite having some limitations, anyone can be a star every day.
"I just want to them to know to be brave like me. Because there are some children who are scared when they get treatment, that is why I always want to make them feel better," said Darby.
Darby is in the 5th grade at Riverton Intermediate School where she is an excellent student and is in the drama club. She also takes piano lessons. She just started participating in special Olympics in ice skating.
She will star in "My Holiday Wish" on December 2nd at 7 p.m. At Merrimack Hall.