In my New PGH Family Fun series, I highlight new family-friendly entertainment opportunities within Pittsburgh.  I monitor social media sites and conventional news sources to find the most interesting and unique NEW adventure options for families in Pittsburgh.  Then, I write about them here! 

I was recently doing some aimless internet surfing when I stumbled upon a Facebook page for a Pittsburgh organization that I had never heard of before: Volunteer Princesses. My interest was piqued. After all, I’m the mom of a 4 year old girl and, whether we like it or not, we are definitely in the throes of a Disney Princess fetish around our house. I know I’m not alone.

Rachel Makary, Founder of Volunteer Princesses
Rachel Makary, Founder of Volunteer Princesses

I decided to investigate the program further and ended up meeting and interviewing its founder, 18 YEAR OLD (!!) Rachel Makary. I learned that Volunteer Princesses is an organization bringing princesses, princes, superheroes and eager little ones together at community events, hospitals, long term care facilities, domestic violence shelters and other places near YOU for FREE. Just because it makes the volunteers happy to see your children smile. Although the organization initially started in 2012, it has recently relaunched and significantly expanded its programming. Want to learn more? Here’s my interview with Rachel:

 

Princesses and Helpers
Some Princesses and their Helpers

Can you tell me more about what Volunteer Princesses does?

Our organization is comprised of a group of dedicated volunteers ranging in age from 15 to mid-30’s who enjoy bringing the magic of princesses, princes, and superheroes to children. Each volunteer carefully crafts his or her own handmade costume and then attends our events “in character.” At these events, our volunteers offer free “Meet and Greets” and photo opportunities for children. We also organize other activities including story-telling, coloring, puzzles, face-painting, jump-roping, blowing bubbles and handing out stickers. Sometimes, we even have sing-alongs and organized games like Red Rover; Red Light, Green Light; etc). We also hold events with individual characters, such as art classes with our Tangled Princess and superhero training clinics.

 

Where are your events?

When we first started, we organized events mostly at local nonprofits like the Ronald Mcdonald House, HEARTH Women’s Transitional Home, and the Children’s Institute. We then decided to expand our services to all the children of Pittsburgh, so we started setting up community events for everyone to enjoy for free. We had an event at Market Square a couple weeks ago and another one in Schenley Plaza recently, too. We plan on having many more throughout the city in the coming months. Please LIKE our Facebook page to find out about our upcoming events.

Parents or community organizers are also welcome to book our characters for parties or events. Although, we never charge for our services, we welcome TIPS! To book, just send us a message on our facebook page and we will reply back to you as fast as we can.

 

Reading a book with Rapunzel
Reading a book with Rapunzel

Why did you decide to start Volunteer Princesses?

I have always enjoyed making costumes for myself and first developed a cosplay hobby in 2012 when I was 16. One day, I was wearing a Merida costume near the Carnegie Library in Oakland when a bunch of little kids came over and wanted me to read them stories and take pictures with them. After that experience, I realized that my costumes could be used to make kids happy. I told a few of my friends about my plans for Volunteer Princesses and they agreed to join. We bought puzzles, face-paint, coloring books, stickers, books, jump ropes, and plastic balls.

Our first event was at the Ronald Mcdonald House. I was supposed to meet a girl who had just had a bone marrow transplant. Although her mom had initially warned me that the little girl probably wouldn’t have the energy to get up out of her bed, she got up, got dressed, and was ready to meet the princesses when we came in!

 

*****
Meeting Rapunzel!
Meeting Rapunzel!

After learning more about the Volunteer Princesses and their programming, it was obvious to me that my kids would freak at this chance. So…I hauled them down to the Carnegie Library in Oakland for an art class with Rapunzel. The experience was ridiculously cute. A group of little girls sat around a table with Rapunzel, each one decorating a handmade coloring page and chatting with each other.

“Where’s Pascal?” one little girl asked of the group.

“He’s in the tower,” another little girl chirped in. Rapunzel nodded in agreement.

“Did Mother Gothel let you out?” asked one worried-looking girl of Rapunzel.

“Only after I did my chores,” said the barefooted, long-haired princess.

The girls nodded to each other in silent understanding. They continued with their work.

The dialogue continued on in this manner, punctuated only by the shrieks of other little children as they spotted Rapunzel for the first time. It was priceless!

volunteerprincesses6

Although my kids didn’t do anything fancy with Rapunzel, it was just perfect. Instead of rushing through a lame photo opp, they had the highly unusual opportunity to just sit down and chill out with her. They loved it.

And I was just SO impressed by Rachel and her initiative in organizing this program. She’s only 18 years old! Just starting college. And somehow, she already has the leadership and organizational skills to pull this all together. More importantly, she has a mature-beyond-her-years spirit. An 18 year old that goes above and beyond to make Pittsburgh children happy? I think that’s really special!

You are a truly exceptional young adult, Rachel, and I foresee very wonderful things in your future. Thank you for what you are doing for Pittsburgh families!

 

© Copyright 2014 Nadine Champsi, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog
Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

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