Students dress as princesses and superheroes to visit medically vulnerable kids

Carolina students dress as their favorite animated movie characters to bring joy to children in hospitals and social service institutions.

Student dressed as Disney's Elsa talks with a little girl

If you’ve ever wanted to dress up as your favorite superhero or fairy tale character but thought, “I’m too old for that,” one student organization at Carolina might change your mind.

Members of UNC-Chapel Hill’s chapter of A Moment of Magic regularly transform into princesses or fairies, knights or comic book heroes to bring joy to a child in need. The group is part of a national non-profit that provides opportunities for college students to volunteer at children’s hospitals and social service institutions.

Don’t want to dress up? Student volunteers can still get involved by helping to coordinate book readings, arts and crafts, singalongs and other fun activities for medically vulnerable children.

Julia Drahzal, a junior double majoring in psychology and exercise and sport science, launched Carolina’s Moment of Magic chapter during her freshman year. Since then, the chapter has grown to more than 75 volunteers.

“I think the hardest part for families dealing with medical vulnerabilities is that from the parents’ perspective, they don’t get to sit back and watch their kids be kids,” Drahzal said. “We’ve had families tell us, ‘This is the first time I’ve seen my kid smile all week.’ For us to be able to provide happy memories like that, I think it’s really special.”

The visits can make an immediate impact on the kids, as well, whether they’re struggling with a cancer diagnosis or living with a physical or mental disability.

“My favorite moment was there was a little girl who requested my character,” said Drahzal, who didn’t want to spoil the magic by revealing which popular princess she dresses as. “She was wearing a shirt with my character’s face on it, and she had bedsheets with my character on them, and when I walked in her jaw just dropped. When I left, she said, ‘You’re my favorite princess, and this is my favorite day.’”

So, while the organization is about encouraging the kids, the student volunteers benefit just as much by giving back and bringing a little magic to someone’s day.

“We really hope people join and are excited about this as we are,” Drahzal said.