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Mike Canine as Prince Euros heralds the selection of his East Wind Princess, Shannon O'Brien during the coronation ceremony. Photo courtesy of the St. Paul Winter Carnival

Shannon O'Brien overcomes incredible odds to realize her goal

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Shannon O'Brien nearly died as the result of injuries sustained in a January 2012 crash. The car she was driving in Woodbury, was T-boned by a semi-truck. With 15 to 17 broken bones and several surgeries, a special goal kept her going as she had to learn how to walk, read and count again.

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"I was almost killed," said O'Brien, who is the daughter of Patrick and Theresa O'Brien, Hudson. She graduated from Hudson High School in 2003. "It was a wake-up call. I didn't realize I was so strong."

"I grew up in North Hudson. My whole life Pepper Fest was a huge part of what my family did," said O'Brien, who was on the 2001-2002 Pepper Fest Court as a princess. "I loved the food, rides and entertainment. I really wanted to represent North Hudson."

During her year on the court, she made close friends and was introduced to the St. Paul Winter Carnival event and court. Her family became part of the Royal Family, traveling to parades throughout the region. That planted a seed which she just never let go of. She wanted to some day run for a position on the Winter Carnival Court.

She went off to college, trained at the Circle in the Square Theater School, graduated from Mary Mount and went to work in New York City for Abercombie and Fitch.

"It was awesome," said O'Brien, who had been active in The Phipps Children's Theatre and productions at Hudson High School. Eventually she was transferred back to the Twin Cities, still with this goal.

"People tell you, life is short," said O'Brien. "I guess it really is. I wanted to run for Winter Carnival and this year I felt like this time was right. I really used Winter Carnival as a motivator to get better."

Less than a year after her accident, O'Brien started the three month candidacy program beginning in October of 2012.

She was one of 16 candidates vying for a title, ranging in age from 22 to 35. You have to be 21 years old to apply. There would be five chosen to serve, four princesses and one queen. O'Brien's sponsor was Bennett's Chop and Rail House in St. Paul.

After her extensive hospital stay, she realized even more that the service projects and volunteering required as part of the Winter Carnival court were more important than ever.

"After my accident I just wanted to help others," said O'Brien. "It really helps to give back."

The St. Paul Winter Carnival Coronation ceremony was held Jan. 25 as the annual event kicked off.

"I was so excited and so surprised when I was selected," said O'Brien. "I was happy to have any role at all." She will serve as the East Wind Princess for the next year, making hundreds of appearances, volunteering in schools, hospitals and nursing homes, as well as traveling extensively across the nation to festival and events.

"I went from a bad year (2012) and this will probably the best year of my life," said O'Brien, who is ready for the challenges and travel required as part of serving the community as a member of the St. Paul Winter Carnival Court. After this she hopes to study law, following in the grandfather's footsteps, the honorable judge Thomas O'Brien.

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