Making The Walk Magical
Making The Walk Magical
Interview With Alyssa Banks by Julia Shiller, NEHA Intern
Posted: February 28, 2023. Originally printed in NEHA’s Fall 2022 Newsletter.
Each year, local businesses and community organizations play a vital role at our Unite for Bleeding Disorders Walk. They help provide entertainment for the entire family and help make our Walk special. This year, our Walk featured over a dozen small businesses, food trucks, vendors and more who joined us at Prowse Farm.
Since 2018, we’ve been thrilled to have princesses attend our Walk with the help of The Princess Program. This is a non- profit organization in Massachusetts comprised of volunteers. They dress up as princesses to visit children with illnesses or chronic conditions, like hemophilia. They’ve been making kids smile since 2017. Below is an interview with Alyssa Banks, founder of the Princess Program, about why she and her organization attend our Walk year after year.
What inspired you to start the Princess Program?
A few years back, I was playing mini golf with a little girl at a camp for terminally ill kids when she looked up at me and said, “I’ll never get to go to Disney.” It broke my heart, but it planted a seed in my imagination to find a way to bring Disney to children like her. The Princess Program started as a club when I was a first-year college student. During some life changes, I decided to make it a non-profit organization. Our princesses are volunteers and I have met them in all different walks of life. I’ve even had professors from my past school volunteer as princesses! I’ve wanted to work with kids since I was very young. It was always my dream growing up to work at Boston Children’s Hospital, and now I volunteer there as a princess. For me, the people who work there help and inspire kids every day which is exactly what I hope to do with the Princess Program. I love seeing the smiles on kids’ faces when we walk into the room or are on a Zoom call dressed as their favorite character. It’s so special. I feel so grateful we can bring them that magic.
When did your partnership with NEHA begin?
In 2018, we were invited to NEHA’s Walk and we’ve returned every year since. The princesses who have attended include Snow White, Jasmine, Elsa, and Ana, but we could bring just about anyone! My biggest takeaway is the community atmosphere, the positivity, and the encouragement. Everyone at the Walk is always so happy to be there and show support to one another. It’s truly beautiful to watch.
What has your role with the Princess Program taught you about giving back and helping others?
I’m really connected to these kids and their families, and seeing every update and watching what they go through is extremely heartbreaking; but it’s also why we do what we do. I think the other important piece I learned is just how much our work means to them. It brings me joy to watch their faces light up when we walk into a room. They get so excited to tell us about the 50 times that they’ve watched that princess’s movie. It’s hard to know how big of an impact you have until you meet families in person or on Zoom and see the child’s face light up. You don’t really know how much that moment means to them until it’s their memory. Sometimes their parents will say, “it was watching Frozen that got us through the surgery/ER visit” which is really impactful for me.