Janiya Penny was granted her wish of meeting President Obama this year and the photograph of the emotional meeting has become an internet sensation.
The image, taken by White House photographer Pete Souza, shows 8-year-old Janiya covering her face with her hands, overcome with excitement at meeting the president. Her mother, Breale Gray, stands in the doorway, beaming as she holds on to Obama’s hands.
The Make-A-Wish foundation reached out to Janiya three years ago as she battled sickle cell anemia, a painful and life-threatening illness. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native told them her dream was to meet President Obama – one the organization wasn’t sure it could grant — but Janiya wouldn’t budge, even as they tried to make her change her wish.
Eight-year old Make-A-Wish child Janiya Penny reacts after meeting President Barack Obama as he welcomes her family to the Oval Office, Aug. 8, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
“I’m his number one fan,” she told The Huffington Post.
Janiya first fell for Obama when she was just four years old, staying up late to watch his 2008 inaugural speech. Her mother said Janiya, who claims the president won because she was wearing her Obama t-shirt on election day, understood the significance of an African-American man being elected as president for the first time.
On August 8, her dream came true and she finally met her idol.
Janiya was accompanied by her mother, brother and grandfather, and when they walked into the White House’s Oval Office they all began to tear up at the sight of the president.
“He gave her a signed book of the Constitution that says ‘Best Wishes Janiya, Dream Big’ and special buttons and tokens,” Gray said after the meeting.
Janiya added, “He signed my ‘J’ hat and gave me a bag of M&Ms.”
In addition to the gifts, the family took photos with President Obama and was given a VIP tour of the White House grounds.