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Magical moment

A Sarasota teen's wish to see the premiere of the latest Harry Potter movie and meet its star comes true.

BHAVANA VANGARA
Published June 7, 2004

Radio City Music Hall's red carpet was flooded with stars for the May 23 premiere of the third installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And Kimberly Cullen, a 13-year-old from Sarasota, can proudly say that she was there.

But the highlight of the trip may have come the next day when Kimberly got to meet Harry himself, Daniel Radcliffe, and chat with Today show host Katie Couric.

Kimberly, who was diagnosed with leukemia in July 2000, had her wish come true to meet Radcliffe and see the new movie courtesy of the Children's Dream Fund. The trip was a celebration of the completion of her treatment at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

While in New York City with her parents and older sister Sabrina, Kimberly also saw a performance of The Lion King, stayed at the Plaza Hotel, shopped at Saks Fifth Avenue, had dinner at the theme restaurant Mars 2112, took a Gray Line bus tour around the city and took a carriage ride through Central Park.

The Dream Fund is a nonprofit organization that has been fulfilling dreams for children with life-threatening illnesses on the west coast of Florida since 1981. Xpress spoke with Kimberly about her dream coming true.

Xpress: When did you make your Dream Fund wish?

Kimberly: About three months ago.

Xpress: How was the premiere? Were there any specific preparations for the event?

Kimberly: It was amazing and unbelievable. Dream Fund set up everything for us. It was great.

Xpress: Did you see any other celebrities at the premiere?

Kimberly: A few. LL Cool J was about 15 rows behind us, and we were in the third row!

Xpress: How was it meeting Daniel Radcliffe? Kimberly: It was so cool but you didn't expect him to be overwhelmed, but he was. I got to ask him a question on the Today show about acting as Harry Potter. I asked him, "What was it like after reading the books trying to act as Harry Potter being Daniel and still keep it Harry Potter?' He said that the character is so well-defined that he doesn't put his own twist into it.

Xpress: How did you get on the Today?

Kimberly: Katie Couric asked me if I wanted to ask (Radcliffe) a question because he was on (the show). She was very kind, but I really didn't get to talk to her much.

Xpress: What was the best part of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?

Kimberly: Seeing all of the new actors and how much the characters grew up. I think I spotted a few clues about Books 6 and 7.

Xpress: Who is your favorite Harry Potter character?

Kimberly: I love them all so much. I don't think I have a favorite because they all are special and add to the story.

Xpress: How are J.K. Rowling's books an escape for you?

Kimberly: When I was not feeling well in the hospital, I would read the Harry Potter books and forget about everything. It was like I was trapped in the magical Harry Potter world. Nothing else could do that but the Harry Potter books. I owe them so much.

- Bhavana Vangara, 15, will be in the 10th grade in August at Palm Harbor University High School.

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