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Conversations with Alyssa Banks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alyssa Banks.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Once upon a time, I was a first-year college student, age 18, with a big dream. I wanted to make a difference in the world by bringing magic to children in hospitals. I began by gathering up my friends to dress up as princesses and superheroes to visit terminally ill kids receiving treatment. Soon, an idea became an organization that is comprised of volunteers who have spent countless hours making children smile since the group started in November of 2017. The Princess Program became an official nonprofit in January of 2020. Our nonprofit travels to children’s hospitals, care centers, and therapy locations dressed up as Princesses and Superheroes. We also zoom with children battling cancer all over the world.

It all started when a child said to me “I’ll never get to go to Disney” and I thought, how can I bring that magic to her?

The pandemic greatly impacted the way we bring magic. Although, we still believe it was our best year yet. The reason for this being, we were gifted with being able to reach children all over the world. We found the light at the end of the very dark tunnel known as the year 2020. We have brought magic to so many different states all over the United States via the zoom/video call platform. We’ve had zoom calls with children in Nebraska, Utah, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, etc. We’ve even had calls out of the country with children in Canada.

The zoom calls started because of a terminally ill two years old girl who wanted a zoom call with Elsa. So, we got on the computer and talked for so long. She passed away in the following months. I knew we had to keep doing this for the kids.

When we’re Elsa and Anna, they ask about Olaf’s whereabouts and what it’s like to live in an ice castle. They show us all of their toys. They want to know what royal balls are like. But they also talk to us about what’s going on. One girl confided in Elsa how sad she was that she didn’t have hair. This broke my heart, so we teamed up with another organization called the Magic Yarn Project to give them princess yarn hair.

We kept busy even during a pandemic, zooming with kids all over the world and sending them care packages.

My hope is we will be back in hospitals visiting kids in early Fall of 2021, after over a year of being away. We will also continue the zoom calls so we can reach kids all over the world battling serious illnesses.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has not been a smooth road. But, anything worth doing does not come easy. I struggled with learning how to cope with the grief of losing these children the most.

I’ll never forget the first child we lost. She had just turned two years old and was fighting an aggressive brain cancer. When she passed away I was deeply saddened, I wasn’t even sure if this job was right for me. I started to ponder how I would handle the loss of this same toddler if I was a nurse and she was my own patient. After all, I am in nursing school and my goal is to become a Pediatric Oncology nurse. A nurse would have to move forward and help the next patient like I would have to move forward and help the next child that needs magic. Helping terminally ill children was something I knew I was destined to do, so I had to find a way to transcend the grief of losing the children I entertain. I collected myself like always and helped bring a smile to the next child’s face, and the next child, and so on.

The other struggle I faced was is this something I want to keep up with my entire life? Right now, I am 21 years old, in college for Nursing. When I started the Princess Program I was 18, with no idea on how to do any of this. Through trials and tribulations, I figured out that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to bring magic to kids fighting cancer. Give them a moment just to be a kid, not a kid fighting cancer. So, in the middle of my Junior year I left the school I was at, establishing the Princess Program as a 501c3. Seriously conflicted, I knew I had to keep doing it for the kids. So I fight for them through social media posts and even in person fundraisers. I was able to go to another school, in another Nursing program, while also running my Nonprofit. The goal is to work at Boston Children’s Hospital during the week and visit as Princess Belle on the weekends. So while all of this was challenging for me to incorporate in my life, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’m the CEO of the organization. I basically do it all. I organize the care packages, communicate with the parents, attend to the needs of the child, schedule hospital visits, etc. I am known for starting the program and continuing to raise awareness for the kids. I am most proud of the difference we have made in these kids lives. When you get to know the families and you see how big of an impact you have had on them, that’s honestly the best part. I also love seeing the looks on their faces when a character walks into the room or enters the zoom call. I think what sets me apart from others is my passion, motivation, and drive. I am constantly seeking new ways to help these families by raising awareness, collecting donations, and providing meet & greets for them with our characters. I am extremely passionate when it comes to the kids. They are truly my reason for being in this life. As cliche as that sounds, helping them makes me, well me. I put so much thought into care packages, characters outfits, training the characters, baskets for the families, Christmas gifts, etc.

What matters most to you? Why?
What matters the most to me is that the families or hospital staff have a good experience with our organization. We always ask the parents afterwards what are some things we can improve on? Things you liked about the call? What we can include in care packages that we haven’t already thought of. Building the relationships with the child is just as important as with the parents. We try to keep open and honest communication with the parents. I always want to make sure they are enjoying the experience and that their child is. For hospitals, we often ask what things we can improve upon? What should we be bringing for the kids? etc. So, I guess what matters the most to me is making sure everyone is having a magical experience. That would mean I am doing my job right.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

For Personal Photo: Francesca Feola Photography

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