WILKES-BARRE — Kylee McGrane was home from college for Christmas break in 2015 when she had what can only be described as a magical moment.
McGrane, a Coughlin High graduate, and her family were watching the Disney movie “Frozen” when she noticed a similarity between herself and Elsa, also known as “The Snow Queen.”
McGrane suddenly had an idea, so she called her best friend, Maggie McAndrew, of Milford, Conn. McGrane and McAndrew were both students at College of Mount St. Vincent in Manhattan.
McGrane’s idea was for her and McAndrew to dress up like princesses, like Elsa, and visit sick children in hospitals.
That magical moment in 2015 was the start of a dream of McGrane’s. Due to those early visits in 2015, McGrane, now a college graduate, is serving as executive director of the organization she and McAndrew founded — A Moment of Magic Foundation.
McGrane, McAndrew and student volunteers from 11 colleges and universities across the U.S. have made more than 300 hospital visits to bring smiles to more than 3,000 children — children who are battling cancer and other diseases.
“I always wanted to volunteer in a pediatric hospital,” said McGrane, 22, who almost exclusively dresses up as Elsa. “We never started this to be a business. We wanted to give back to the community and to bring smiles to the faces of very sick children.”
The project is working and growing at a rapid pace. McGrane said 11 colleges and universities have signed on to become individual chapters of A Moment of Magic, including the University of Arizona, University of Texas, Coastal Carolina University, Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, West Virginia University, and, of course, College of Mount St. Vincent.
McGrane said she is trying to sign up Penn State, and she would love to have the colleges and universities in Luzerne County become a part of the organization.
McGrane said she recruits volunteers — so far all female students — to dress up as princesses to visit hospitals in their cities and towns. Her goal is to develop a program for male students to dress up as superheroes, like Superman, Batman, Spiderman and more.
And the costumes must be authentic, she said. The volunteers do all the fundraising to get the money to buy the costumes. So far, more than 1,200 students have responded to the call for volunteers and 800 of those have submitted applications.
“In the beginning, I was very nervous because I had absolutely no volunteer experience,” McGrane said. “I wanted to be sure to uphold the integrity of each character. These kids have long days in the hospital and they are always watching movies. They know the characters well.”
That’s why McGrane said she was so nervous on her first visit to a hospital. It was May 2015 and she was going to visit a child at Cohen’s Children’s Hospital on Long Island.
“I walked in and as I approached the child, there really was a moment of magic,” she said. “The child’s eyes opened wide and everybody was smiling. Everything clicked. I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do.”
As the organization grows, McGrane will work out of her home in White Plains, N.Y. She hopes to secure some donated office space in the near future.
“My life has really changed,” she said. “From meeting all these children, I have learned what it means to be truly strong. I am amazed at their resilience, and I am overwhelmed by the support of the families.”
McGrane said she has developed some relationships with a few families and has made multiple visits to some children.
“I met Avery on her sixth birthday,” McGrane said. “We really clicked. I have picked her up from school, visited her at summer camp and attended meetings of her Girl Scout troop.”
McGrane said Avery knows her as Elsa and also as Kylee.
In addition to Elsa, volunteers dress up as Cinderella, Snow White, Little Mermaid and more. She has also asked the children to develop their own character ideas.
Recently, A Moment of Magic was honored by the New York Yankees at the organization’s annual HOPE Week. The Yankees presented McGrane with a $10,000 grant for A Moment of Magic.
According to MLB.com, “the Yankees swapped their iconic pinstripes for a set of equally recognizable capes and masks, with Yankee Stadium transformed into a playground for superheroes and princesses as part of the team’s annual HOPE Week. A group of children with pediatric brain cancer were delighted in the left field Audi Club, first by a group of volunteers from A Moment of Magic wearing princess costumes, then by several Yankees in disguise: Jordan Montgomery, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, plus general manager Brian Cashman.” (See the story at tinyurl.com/y82gwjtl)
McGrane said it was a special day, posting on her Facebook site: “Thank you so much to the @yankees for believing in pixie dust and kindness and honoring us during your #HOPEweek celebration.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.
To donate or get involved, call Kylee McGrane at 570-991-1767, or go to the website: amomentofmagic.com.