Virtual Princess Party Provides Sweet Dreams for Pediatric Patients

At a time when everybody could use a little magic, 16 pediatric cancer patients got a big dose thanks to the Jimmy Fund Clinic and princesses calling in from their enchanted kingdoms.

During the clinic’s first-ever virtual Princess Party, held over Zoom on July 16, nine fairy-tale princesses engaged in activities with the young patients, their siblings, and parents. There was bingo and I Spy games, sing-alongs, stories, and even bedtime yoga. The princesses each stood before a picture that doubled as a window into their worlds. When Ariel was addressing the group, the enchanted sea was her backdrop; when it was Elsa’s turn, the snowy mountains of her kingdom loomed behind her.

The princesses were already well-acquainted with many of the children, dressed in pajamas and nestled on beds and couches as they looked back at them. The women playing the princesses have all volunteered at the Jimmy Fund Summer Festival, held annually since 1993 for active and past patients of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. With the 2020 Festival canceled due to COVID-19, the Princess Party was a way for staff to provide patient families fun, safe alternatives until the clinic’s larger outdoor events can be held again.

For the children and their parents, the night was a big success.

“That was so cute and wiped Abs right out. She could barely keep her eyes open at the end,” one parent said after the event, while another shared that “Charlee was over the moon with being able to see all the princesses. She will be talking about this for a long time, especially her special goodnight from Cinderella.”

Those providing the magic, who wondered how well the event would work beforehand, felt the same way.

“It can be difficult to form a connection through a screen, but in this time of distress, these children deserve a moment of magic the most,” says Grace Leahy, who played Jasmine. “Watching them slowly enter the Zoom dressed up and ready in their pajamas, and seeing their faces glow when we came on screen washed all of my worries away. It was like a switch flipped; everything came naturally.”

Riley Jordan, who played Pocahontas, calls the night “a unique kind of special.”

“This event was adapted around an awful situation – which is heightened for these kids,” she says. “We moved quickly and created something incredible. I truly think the girls and I were able to create a magical experience. The pure excitement and authenticity of these kids’ joy is just unmatched.”

At one point in the evening, Jasmine invited each child to pick up their magic lamp and rub it three times while making three wishes. One can imagine that days without cancer or COVID-19 were high on the list, but one big wish was already granted before the event even ended.

“Bringing such joy into the homes of our kids and their families was more than I could have imagined,” says Lisa Scherber, director of patient and family programs at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. “It was wonderful seeing them in their PJs, snuggled up, watching in amazement as each princess made them feel special. I thought this would be a cute event, but I am still smiling weeks after.”

– Saul Wisnia

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Communications