Stephanie Fallon was surfing Facebook in her residence hall room one day during her freshman year when she stumbled upon an Elite Daily video that would shape her college career.
The video was for A Moment of Magic, a nonprofit organization in which participants dress up as princesses to visit children in hospitals for free. Fallon, a senior early childhood and special education major, immediately knew she had found something she needed to get involved with.
“This is what I want to be doing,” she said. “This is amazing.”
After a couple years of planning, Fallon brought A Moment of Magic to the university in March. She is the president of Temple’s chapter, which has garnered interest from more than 300 students who expressed interest online.
To qualify as president, Fallon spent more than 40 hours volunteering as a child life volunteer in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s emergency department. Her volunteer responsibilities included playing with kids awaiting or recovering from medical procedures and stocking supplies like toys and crayons.
Fallon also attended an intensive National Chapter President Training conference in New York this summer that included workshops about doing character makeup and running an executive board and a successful chapter and doing character makeup.
Before the Temple chapter of A Moment of Magic launched, there were no chapters in Pennsylvania.
“There are [more than] 40 hospitals in Philadelphia alone, so I definitely wanted to bring [it] here and make some magic,” Fallon said.
She has already gathered students for her executive board, including senior political science major Jeremy Goodman as on-campus coordinator and sophomore media studies and production major Megan Walsh as Magic Maker Coordinator.
The board members come from different backgrounds, but they share the same goal in the organization: lighting up a child’s day.
“When I was growing up, my dad was the chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Cooper [University Health Care],” Goodman said. “So I was involved in toy drives, March of Dimes, Ronald McDonald House, stuff like that.”
Walsh was involved in theater in high school and always hoped to use her experience for something on a larger scale. She said she struggled to find a volunteer opportunity she was passionate about until she saw Fallon’s Facebook post in Spring 2018 promoting the club.
“Not being a theater major [now], this is a great way to keep doing something that I love,” Walsh said. “But [this] is even more powerful and impactful than the normal circumstance.”
Because the chapter is new, members haven’t been able to visit a hospital in costume yet. But Fallon said her most memorable experience so far with the organization was visiting the children’s oncology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City with another chapter during the training conference.
“It was just really nice to see the little kids and how happy they were and how taken aback they were,” she said. “We were standing there just watching it happen and it was really sweet. … Just to see those children’s faces and how big of an impact [the characters] actually have.”
Club members can be characters, who dress in princess costumes representative of their fairy tales, or Magic Makers, who help the characters with costume malfunctions, make crafts and read books with the children.
To become a character, members must complete 40 volunteer hours within the organization, typically from hospital visits or awareness events. Characters-in-training must also fundraise $450 for their custom-made costumes.
The national A Moment of Magic organization was founded by Kylee McGrane and Margaret McAndrew, 2017 alumnae of the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx, New York. The two self-proclaimed princess-enthusiasts created the organization to bring joy to children who were receiving treatment in hospitals in the New York area.
In Fall 2016, A Moment of Magic went viral when Elite Daily posted a video about the organization – the same one that caught Fallon’s attention.
Since then, A Moment of Magic has established 15 other chapters at colleges and universities across the country.
The group also isn’t limited to hospital visits. A Moment of Magic attends events like the CHOP Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome and the Autism Speaks Walk, as well as foster care visits, Fallon said.
“This is an amazing opportunity to make just a small change in someone’s life,” Goodman said. “You don’t realize how much this means to someone until you see that smile on that little child’s face.”