Kylee McGrane had a revelation one day as she watched the animated film “Frozen” with her family.
McGrane, a Wilkes-Barre native and 2013 graduate of Coughlin High School, was home on break during her sophomore year at the College of Mount St. Vincent’s in Riverdale, New York.
As she watched the film, with its famous soundtrack and storyline centered on princesses, McGrane resolved to turn her love of the film and its characters into a way to help children who could use some magic in their lives.
McGrane and her college friend Maggie McAndrew decided to dress up in costume as the princesses from “Frozen” and visit hospitals to entertain seriously ill children.
The venture proved to be a big hit with both the children and the women wearing the costumes, according to McGrane. When the children first laid eyes on the princesses, “it was like love at first sight,” she said.
Based on that positive experience, McGrane and McAndrew founded the nonprofit A Moment of Magic Foundation, which provides opportunities for college-age volunteers to visit children’s hospitals in costume, as characters from films and fairy tales.
“It really is like a Cinderella story,” McGrane said last week. “I never thought I would have the opportunity to do this.”
McGrane, 22, graduated from college last month and now serves as executive director of the foundation, which has expanded rapidly since it was founded.
The foundation has 11 chapters at colleges and universities, with a total of about 400 volunteers, McGrane said. Those volunteers undergo hours of training to prepare to entertain children being treated for a wide range of medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or pediatric cancer, she said.
Making children happy is its own reward, said McGrane, who is the foundation’s only full-time employee.
“Parents say when we visit their child, it’s the first time they see them smile in a long time,” she said.
The children often just want a chance to chat, according to McGrane.
Hospital visits for the foundation’s costumed volunteers often consist of “a half hour of just sitting there and talking about things,” she said.
McGrane, who lives in the New York City area, got a chance to take her game to the big-league level recently.
She helped entertain a group of 20 children battling brain cancer at Yankee Stadium on May 25, as part of the team’s HOPE week initiative. The other entertainers included Yankees players who dressed up as superheroes such as Superman and Captain America.
Working together with famous professional athletes was “a very surreal experience,” McGrane said.
“It really was a thrill,” she said.
McGrane said the thrill from making children smile stays true even when no famous ballplayers are around. She takes inspiration from the children whose spirit cannot be crushed by illness, she said.
“They never let anything hold them back,” she said.
McGrane said she visits the Wilkes-Barre area frequently. She credits her parents, who she said are “big into family bonding,” for inspiring her — and for sitting down to watch an animated film with her one fateful day.
While she will focus on practical details of running the foundation as its executive director, McGrane said her heart will always be with the ailing children and the costumed characters who visit them.
“My favorite thing is to work hands-on with the volunteers,” she said. “My biggest message is how grateful I am for the entire experience.”
For information on A Moment of Magic Foundation, visit www.amomentof
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