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Seattle mermaids share their magic with a sick little girl

Seattle mermaid, Jen Page (Photo courtesy of Jen Page and Seattle Mermaids)

Six year old Penny Armstrong was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in September of 2016. She’s spent a lot of time in the hospital and lost her hair twice.

“It didn’t make me feel happy,” Penny said. “I was like, ‘Ugggh! Why does it have to have no hair!'”

Penny’s mom, Abbey Armstrong, tries to make the hospital visits more fun; they wear Minnie Mouse ears and bunny ears.

“She’s just like pretty much any other six year old girl,” Abbey said. “She loves mermaids and unicorns and all that magical stuff. I actually saw a commercial on Facebook that was a piece on the Seattle mermaid pod.”

Yep. Seattle has a mermaid pod! Seattle Mermaids was co-founded by Seattle costume designer, Jamie Von Stratton.

“I was swimming at the lake one summer and I had bought a monofin and all my friends would come to the lake, we’d drink wine. We were just having good summer fun and I jokingly, with my friends, said, who by the way are all performers, circus artists, dancers, singers, I said, ‘ We should have a mermaid group and a website in case all those people with yachts over there want mermaids for their yacht parties.’ I went home and made a website and called it Seattle Mermaids. A couple months later I started getting a ton of messages and it’s become so much bigger than anything I would have imagined that day, sitting at the lake with my friends.”

Seattle Mermaids do public swims and birthday parties, decked out in homemade mermaid tails, shell bras and glitter. Recently they’ve granted a couple wishes from sick kids, like Penny.

“They contacted the group and wanted to do a special swim for Penny,” Seattle Mermaid Jen Page said. “As soon as I heard about it, I was like, oh yeah, immediately we need to do this. All children deserve these magical moments in their childhood and especially Penny in her situation. We met at the Mountlake Terrace pool and they were kind enough to keep the pool open for a private event after hours. Gosh, I think we had like 20 mermaids there. We gave her a tail and a crown and jewelry and it was really, really special to be a part of.”

The event was a surprise for Penny, who got to put on her new, handmade mermaid tail and swim with the mermaids.

“I was so excited!” she said. “They are so magical!”

“All these people did all this stuff and came together just for my daughter,” said Abbey. “It was so awesome because it was something to take her focus away from cancer and going to treatments all the time and seeing her friends sick. I can’t even begin to describe how much it means to me, all the things people have done. I don’t know how we would have gotten through it without all these little tiny bits of help.”

Penny’s doing better. Her hair is long enough to braid and if all goes as planned, her last treatment will be in December.

And if you’re interested in being a Seattle mermaid, you’re welcome to join the pod for a swim in a local lake, river or pool.

“We’re a really open group if anyone is curious or just getting into mermaiding,” Page said. “You don’t have to be a professional, we do a lot of public swims. The question I get asked the most: how do I become a mermaid? I’m like, well, you have to decide you want to be a mermaid! Then you go about either creating a tail or buying a tail. It’s totally up to you. There’s no magic form you have to fill out or any kind of permission from anyone. That’s another great thing about this art. It’s very attainable and anyone can do it. It just makes you feel so good and the world needs a lot of that.”

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