“You guys look so cold!” A woman said to Disney princesses Cinderella, Elsa, and Anna as they stood outside of Wal-Mart, ringing the bell for Salvation Army.
“It’s not a problem, the cold never bothered me anyway,” Elsa said. Later, when no longer in character, senior Rebekah Molloy admitted that even as Elsa, she was a little cold.
The three princesses stood outside in complete costume for an hour, helping raise money for Salvation Army’s annual red-kettle fundraiser.
“It’s such a blessing to be able to really make these kids’ dreams come true. It’s not just about fancy dresses, but also kindness and wanting to be a good influence,” freshman Hannah Molloy, Cinderella, said. Both Molloys said they were amazed by the generosity of Wal-Mart patrons.
The three princesses are a part of the Liberty Princess Company, an organization run by senior Gianna Marchese that provides Disney princess characters, typically student volunteers, for events.
They’ve done Wal-Mart’s Trunk or Treat, parties, a foster care ball, meets and greets, and even a Salvation Army Princess Day, but this is the first time Disney princesses have rung the bell for Salvation Army.
“As Disney princesses, we bring so much happiness, magic, and joy to children, and it goes so well with the joy of giving at Christmastime,” Rebekah Molloy said.
The company has 18 student volunteers and 14 different princess outfits.
“All the girls know the Disney stories forward and backward as a requirement for being their character,” Marchese said. “We strive for 100 percent character integrity all the time. As soon as they leave our base location, they are in character. It’s not just like a lawn-mowing system that’s unchanging and doesn’t matter. This is little kids’ dreams.”
Marchese said it’s not just kids who love the princesses, though. Even adults love seeing the princesses — which make them the perfect fit to ring the bell for Salvation Army’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
Last year, Hillsdale’s Salvation Army made more than $156,000, just under their goal of $166,000, according to Hillsdale Salvation Army Administrative Assistant Kathy Stump. With the same goal this year, Salvation Army had raised almost $54,000 by Dec. 5, about $5,000 behind where they were at the same time last year.
With the money last year, the Hillsdale Salvation Army alone helped 24,383 people and provided 73,553 services — more than 200 services per day including free community meals, clothing distribution, referrals, and more.
Nationally, Salvation Army provided more than 92 million services last year and helped more than 25 million people — one person nearly every second.
Almost all of these services are provided through the Christmastime bell-ringing fundraiser. Hillsdale’s Salvation Army has had singers, dancers, Batman, and Supergirl help raise money, and now they’ve had princesses too. Marchese said the Liberty Princesses are the perfect complement to Salvation Army’s Slogan: “Doing the most good.”
“In addition to making every experience as magical as possible, we try to teach kids that you don’t need to live in a castle or have fancy dresses or go to fancy balls — true beauty comes from within, and it’s by acts of kindness and love that that beauty radiates outwards and that’s what makes you a true princess,” Marchese said.
By raising money for Salvation Army, they exemplified that inward beauty while making children’s dreams come true at the same time.
“The best part is seeing little kid’s faces light up when you walk into a room, closely seconded by convincing someone on the fence of believing and having them interact with you as if you are that real person,” Marchese said. “The magic is just tangible. There’s something real when princesses walk into the room.”