M. Alice LeGrow is the party princess for hire! This means that she dresses up as a princess and entertains children at parties. The company she works for often goes to hospitals to entertain ill children for free. Frequently, the hospital is St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On her website The Party Princess for Hire!, Ms. LeGrow writes, “Why do we visit the hospital so often? Because it’s a place where sick children hate to go and are often tired, nervous and scared of what’s happening to them. They are very small children who don’t understand why they must stay at the hospital, away from home and parents. They feel out of their safe zone and are often in pain. They need comforting and reassuring and for something to take their minds off their conditions. That’s where we come in.” Doing this good deed can be expensive in money as well as time: “We pay all the expenses out of our own pockets, we throw parties and supply gifts for the children, decorations, favor bags and do hours of entertaining for free. We even front our own parking costs if there’s no free parking available.” She adds that “the joy of bringing happiness to little children in need is more than enough thanks for my boss and her girls. We don’t hand out business cards or leave fliers for our company. We don’t even mention our company, because we stay in character the whole time. My boss is very adamant about this. This is CHARITY, not a way to drum up sales.” For an early 2013 visit to St. Christopher’s, Ms. LeGrow stayed up all night making a princess cloak for the main girl — Aliana — the princesses were going to visit. Often, the princesses have one main child they visit, but they also pay visits to many more children and talk to children who see them on the street. The idea of making the cloak came to Ms. LeGrow late at night. She explains, “I was working very hard on another project the night before when I thought to myself, ‘It would be nice if I had the time to make something for Aliana, like a cape and hood or something simple. OH DAMMIT, NOW I HAVE TO DO IT, BECAUSE I THOUGHT OF IT.’” She adds, “I’m not an amazingly selfless person by nature, I just come from a family of people who are dedicated to going overboard on gift-giving. […] So when I thought, ‘hand-sewn princess cloak,’ I suddenly had a moral obligation to do it, because thinking it and then NOT doing it would be basically admitting that a kid with a brain tumor isn’t worth the trouble. So I put my other work aside, dug out my kids’ cloak pattern and ended up spending three times as long making it as I thought I would, because that’s always the way, isn’t it? It was late, after the fabric stores had closed, so I had to use whatever was on hand. I had some fabric flowers and roses left over from another kid’s dress, and some pink and black velvet-embossed fabric, and my friend Carrie had given me an elaborate charm bracelet that she no longer wanted, which I could take apart and use the charms to make the cape extra special.” She went as the Rose Beauty princess — she does not work for Disney, so her princess characters are either in the public domain or are generic. The princess — played by Erika — who went with her was the public-domain Snow White. The two princesses visited Aliana in Oncology. Ms. LeGrow writes, “The social worker told me later that she had been cross and difficult that morning, very cranky, hiding her face and not wanting to cooperate during tests, but the minute we came in, she was shocked and began grinning from ear-to-ear, and was thrilled to pieces for the rest of the day. We greeted her warmly, got a hug each, asked about her day and if she was having fun, said hi to mom and dad, then posed for the hospital PR photographer. We then did a little ceremony of making Aliana a princess for the day, crowning her with a fancy little Cinderella crown my boss had bought and given to Erika to present (she buys presents for all the children we’re sent to visit), and then I helped Aliana open her cape package and don her princess cape.” They also read her a fairy tale and sang songs with her. Ms. LeGrow adds, “Aliana astounded me by doing something NO other child has ever done in my experience … not at parties, not at events, not ever. She sang along with all the songs. That doesn’t sound like much to you, but I was shocked. No kid EVER sings along with us no matter how much we entreat them to at parties. They just watch us do it. Aliana can’t form words very well, but she still sang all the words to each song and even requested some favorite songs of her own, like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’” After visiting Aliana, the two princesses visited other ill children. Ms. LeGrow has a Fish Puppet, who is a boy and has a deep voice. A nurse complimented Ms. LeGrow on being able to lower her voice as the Fish Puppet. The nurse said, “You can lower your voice so well! How do you do that?” Ms. LeGrow replied, “Years of practice,” in her normal deep voice, and then resumed speaking in her high-pitched princess voice. The boys at the hospital especially liked the Fish Puppet. An autistic girl named Antonia said over and over to Ms. LeGrow, “PRINCESS! PRINCESS! I LOVE YOU! PRINCESS!” Later, outside the hospital, a little girl saw Ms. LeGrow, who went to her and spoke to her. As Ms. LeGrow left, she heard the little girl tell her mother, “THAT WAS AWESOME!” Ms. LeGrow writes, “Today I have a heating pad on my back and a lot of ibuprofen and vicodin in me, not to mention a LOT of work to catch up on, but it was worth it. It was TOTALLY worth it. The first thing I did was email my boss and tell her to put me on the list for the next visit!”
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For Further Information: M. Alice LeGrow, “A Visit to St. Christopher’s.” The Party Princess for Hire! Accessed 16 April 2013.