Bringing a Moment of Magic to Sick Children
Co-founded alongside Margaret McAndrews, the Moment of Magic Foundation uses college volunteers to bring joy to the lives of children with chronic illnesses.
By Sophie Hurlock, Xavier University
Being in a hospital sick for several months can be scary and emotionally draining for anyone, but it can be especially terrible for children who have extended stays.
The Moment of Magic Foundation, formerly known as The Princess Project, is looking to change this. Founded by Mount Saint Vincent seniors Kylee McGrane and Margaret McAndrews, the foundation visits sick children in hospitals free of charge in order to brighten their spirits.
I talked with Kylee McGrane to learn a little bit more about the foundation.
Sophie Hurlock: Could you describe what the Moment of Magic Foundation is?
Kylee McGrane: Sure, the Moment of Magic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that allows college-age students to volunteer at children’s hospitals and social service institutions dressed as different characters.
Our organization visits children in need free of charge to the institution. We provide services such as individual visits, bedside visits, group visits, story readings and special events, just to name a few
SH: Where did the idea for the Moment of Magic Foundation come from?
KM: When I was home after Christmas break in December 2014, I was watching “Frozen” with my family and really fell in love with the story line, was able to identify with Elsa and thought I could potentially even look like her. I’ve always been really inspired by Taylor Swift and her work with pediatric cancer, and suddenly everything just clicked like a culmination of all the things I loved in one.
I texted Maggie about joining me, and she immediately agreed and helped us get off the ground by setting up a gofundme page for us. Then our organization was born!
We went on our first hospital visit in May 2015, expanded to include more volunteers at our college, and became an official nonprofit organization in March 2016!
SH: When first getting started, what types of issues did you run into? How did you over come these obstacles?
KM: Logistically, yes, it was very hard to get started. As college students we filed our 501(c)(3) paperwork ourselves. I work day in and day out to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to continue to bring the magic to these children. We are definitely still working and learning.
Right now, we’re trying to find people to help us with accounting and a lawyer to help us with the business aspect, because we just want to make sure we’re doing everything the best way possible!
A lot of the time, people really didn’t take us seriously. We had no experience doing what we were doing, and were just kind of learning the ropes organically. I think for me, being taken seriously as a young female entrepreneur is something that I’ll always have to fight for, but once I started taking myself seriously by trying to learn more about what I was doing, adding a minor, and just getting out there and doing it, things started falling into place.
I learned a lot about myself as a person and started believing in myself, and because I run all of the day-to-day activity, it’s amazing to see this hard work and determination come to fruition in front of my eyes.
However, easily the most challenging thing for me is knowing why we do what we do. It breaks my heart that there are children that have to battle terrible illnesses, and that they don’t get to experience all the magic of childhood that other children do. It really breaks my heart knowing that there are children that going through something no one ever should, and that’s why I’ve made this organization my life mission and am trying to reach as many children as possible.
SH: How many chapters of Moment of Magic are there, and how many volunteers do you have?
KM: At this time, there is one chapter with around 40 volunteers. In May, we will be expanding to 10 chapters!
SH: Why did you choose princesses as your characters? Do the guys dress up as any other characters besides princesses?
KM: As our friends at the Magic Yarn Project say, princesses truly are “symbols of strength, courage and true determination for young children everywhere.” We hope with our visits that we can restore a little bit of the childhood magic that pediatric cancer all too often takes away.
While there are many amazing organizations that allow these children to travel to have the same experiences, Moment of Magic often works with children too ill to travel, but provides them with the same magic and quality! We do also dress up as select superheroes, but also have some fun, original ideas up our sleeve!
SH: How many children would you say on average that Moment of Magic visits? How many children in total have you visited?
KM: While we don’t have an exact number, we have reached children in 15 different states and counting, and have done upwards of 200 visits in 2016 alone. We estimate that we have met 5,000+ kids! Sometimes, we do upwards of 6 visits in a week!
SH: When you go to a hospital, what type of activities do you do with the children?
KM: We cater our services to the type of visit. We find our bedside visits, meet and greets, sing-alongs and coronations to be our most popular!
SH: What has been your most memorable moment while working for Moment of Magic?
KM: During those moments we spend with the child, they are not a patient or a fighter. They are simply a child experiencing the magic of childhood. I think that’s the most magical part about what we do; we spend time with the child just as they are, and treat them like a prince or princess they deserve to be. Together, we create this indescribable magic that’s just pure pixie dust and love, and in those moments we spend with the child, that’s all that matters.
But, I think one of the most impactful moments is having families I’ve visited reach out to me days, weeks or months after I’ve visited the child to tell me how much they still talk about that moment. I’ve had parents tell me that they’ve talked about our visits on their kid’s worst days to cheer them up, and knowing that me doing something as simple as spending time with them as their favorite character has been a memory that gets them through the rainy days—that has changed my outlook on life.
SH: Could you talk a little bit about your partnership with the Magic Yarn Project?
KM: The Magic Yarn Project provides soft acrylic yarn wigs that resemble famous characters to little cancer fighters everywhere. Our partnership with The Magic Yarn Project allows a child to receive a yarn wig from their favorite character.
SH: And what are you all doing with Miss NY USA 2016?
KM: Miss NY USA 2016, Serena Bucaj, visited several hospitals with the characters from A Moment of Magic in her home state of New York. Serena handed out tiaras and crowns to the patients of the hospitals while discussing her upcoming pageant, finding your passion and the importance of self-love and self-confidence.
SH: How specifically can college students get involved with and help the Moment of Magic Foundation?
KM: College students can apply to start a chapter, hold a fundraiser or get involved in our many ways listed on the “get involved” tab!
SH: How could non-college students help the Moment of Magic Foundation?
KM: There are so many different ways to help! Browse our “Get Involved” tab to find out ways we have partnered with people all over the country before. Do you have an idea on how to help, but it isn’t listed? Contact us here and we’ll start planning.
SH: Why is the Moment of Magic Foundation so important to you?
KM: A Moment of Magic is so important to me because I feel like it’s my life mission—it’s what I was put on this Earth to do. In a small way, for just a short moment, we help take away the scariness of the hospital, we distract from the illness and we make kids just feel like they can be kids. Like they can believe in beautiful things and happily ever after’s.
We bring awareness to pediatric cancer, which deserves so much more attention. We help give college students a platform and something to fight for. It’s the first thing I think about at morning, and the last thing I think about at night. It really is my purpose, and I feel so blessed I get to be on this crazy adventure.