The Fairytale Project founder Chassidy Casey and her team allow children to escape their sicknesses and interact with their favorite Disney princesses.
When Anniston native Chassidy Casey moved to Birmingham a few years ago, she expected to settle down, raise a family and help open her husband’s chiropractic clinic. What she didn’t expect was to fill her free time by dressing up as Disney princesses and visiting sick children in the hospital—but today, she couldn’t imagine her life without it.
Of course, it didn’t happen instantly; in fact, Casey’s interest in the whole idea was the result of a local party business who came to Casey’s workplace – WBRC FOX 6 – to talk about advertising. It didn’t take long for them to notice that Casey bore a striking resemblance to Elsa from Frozen. Soon, they had recruited Casey to play Elsa at children’s birthday parties, offering a high hourly pay rate for each party.
At first, Casey doubted her ability to play Elsa to the children’s satisfaction – but the moment she walked into her first party, her uncertainty evaporated.
“I have never been hugged like that by so many children in my entire life,” Casey said, recalling the joy of that first birthday party experience. “It was truly magical and so heartwarming to know that I had the ability to bring that much happiness with such a small effort. I continued to book events every other weekend, and every time, the children gave me more confidence to believe in myself as much as they believed in me.”
Casey quickly realized that the children’s joy was worth much more than the hourly pay, and she began to look for an opportunity to bring that same joy to children who needed it most – for free. She reached out to a few friends that she knew would love the idea, and then took it a step further by contacting organizations who might be interested in helping.
The Ronald McDonald House was the first to truly embrace Casey’s idea. Together with another girl who played Anna and with the help of Casey’s husband and father, the first Frozen party came together at The Ronald McDonald House, where families stay while their children are hospitalized.
Princess makeovers, royalty lessons, Frozen karaoke, fake snowballs for a snowball fight and a game of freeze tag made up the party’s agenda – and the children could not have been more thrilled. But they weren’t the only ones affected by the party.
“I remember having to fight back tears when I heard the first squeals of laughter and excitement from the kids,” Casey said. “I noticed how much impact it had on the parents, too. Their tired faces would turn into smiles and tears. It allowed their children to escape from their world of sickness and experience a moment of a fairytale come to life.”
A few months later, Casey had a total of eight princesses in her arsenal of joy: Elsa, Anna, Cinderella, Jasmine, Belle, Ariel, Snow White and Rapunzel. Each participant provided their own costume, and after partnering with several other organizations, including United Cerebral Palsy, DHR, The ARC, Rainbow Omega and Children’s Hospital, “The Fairytale Project” was officially born.
Children who are visited by one of TFP’s princesses can expect to enjoy a variety of exciting activities, but Casey has a couple of personal favorites.
Her first favorite is the Royal Coronation, in which there is a royal proclamation and the child takes an oath to become a princess or a knight (including vows of kindness, a reminder of their own inner beauty, and the belief that their struggles have made them strong), then signs their oath and are either crowned as a princess or knighted with a sword.
Her second favorite is creating pixie dust or potion necklaces. For this activity, the children get to mix different potion or pixie dust colors that contain “ingredients” like bravery, love, happiness or faith. Then, when they need a little boost in confidence, they can sprinkle it on themselves to help push through the hard moments.
Many of the people who have joined Casey in The Fairytale Project have firsthand experience with difficult circumstances in childhood, from growing up as a foster child in a group home to losing a child to cancer. Not all of them have experienced traumatic situations, but Casey says they all have “a heart of gold and put forth a lot of time and effort into brightening the days of other people who are less fortunate.”
In fact, quite a bit more effort and cost goes into being a TFP character than most people would expect; the high-quality costumes, wigs and accessories can cost $1,000 or more, and it takes time to learn how to play the characters well.
“We all spend countless hours researching our characters, their stories, mannerisms, autographs, poses, makeup and fun things to say or do that’s in character to make the children’s experience as magical as possible,” Casey said.
Casey and her team are always looking for more support in their mission to delight children. Volunteering as a character is helpful, of course, as long as the volunteer meets the right requirements, but Casey could also use photographers, marketing personnel, event planners, character assistants, fundraising personnel and theatrical costume designers. Anyone who is interested in helping out can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another way to support TFP is by hiring one of their characters for a birthday party or corporate event, as proceeds from paid events support their non-profit events. Additionally, doing Amazon-based shopping on smile.amazon.com and choosing The Fairytale Project as the organization to support is a great way to donate to TFP. Traditional monetary donations can be made via the Facebook Page (facebook.com/thefairytaleprojectorg) or Paypal (paypal.me/thefairytaleproject). As a 501c3 nonprofit, all donations are tax deductible.
For more information about The Fairytale Project, email email@example.com.