Courageous Atlanta is belle of the ball

SHE has battled leukaemia for two years but brave Atlanta Aquilina is smiling again thanks to a spectacular star-studded party.

The 12-year-old was just one of more than 100 children enjoying the fun, along with The X Factor finalists pop duo Same Difference and Pompey's weekend goalscoring FA Cup hero David Nugent.

There was even a pair of Doctor Who daleks buzzing around the hall at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, attended by about 200 people.

Atlanta, from Prospect Lane in Fareham, was thrilled to be a part of yesterday's event at Portsmouth's Marriott Hotel, which celebrated the bravery of youngsters fighting serious illnesses.

Enjoying a spin on the dancefloor the Staunton Community College pupil said: 'This is a great party, I never thought I would see Same Difference here – it has been a very tiring couple of years so this is a special treat.'

Atlanta was diagnosed with her illness in exactly the same week as Rebecca Bruce, from Fair Oak, who was also enjoying the fun alongside her new-found friend.

They went through their treatment together and have both entered remission in the last two months.

Rebecca, 7, said: 'I like all the balloons here, and the entertainers are very funny.'

This was the sixth Mad Hatter's Party, and it was again organised by Malcolm Drew.

The 45-year-old came up with the idea to give young children battling illness a treat after his daughter Jenny was ill with leukaemia.

When she made her recovery, Mr Drew wanted to organise a party for other children from the Portsmouth area who tackled cancer and other illnesses.

Through the events he has been able to raise money for vital equipment for the children's wards at Southampton General Hospital and Portsmouth's St Mary's Hospital.

Mr Drew said: 'Last year we had Esther Rantzen dancing around, and this year we've got Same Difference donating hours of their time.

'It makes it all worthwhile when you see them all enjoying themselves. I'm a great believer that feeling positive helps to battle illness. That's what it's all about.'

And the parties can also give families memories to cherish during difficult times.

He said: 'The sad reality is there are children who come to this party every year and they are not here the following year.'