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Beauty, Beast bring magic to local hospital

Schriever volunteers dressed as fairy tale characters greet Nyomi Ollie, 1, during a visit to Penrose-St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 1, 2017. The event was part of an initiative to bring cheer to sick children by bringing magic to their day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Wes Wright)

Schriever volunteers dressed as fairy tale characters greet Nyomi Ollie, 1, during a visit to Penrose-St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 1, 2017. The event was part of an initiative to bring cheer to sick children by bringing magic to their day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Wes Wright)

Jaren Jennings, 4, proudly displays his age by holding up four fingers to Schriever volunteers dressed as fairy tale characters at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 1, 2017. The ensemble made their way through the hospital bringing cheer and normalcy to their lives. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Wes Wright)

Jaren Jennings, 4, proudly displays his age by holding up four fingers to Schriever volunteers dressed as fairy tale characters at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 1, 2017. The ensemble made their way through the hospital bringing cheer and normalcy to their lives. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Wes Wright)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Beauty, Beast, Mrs. Potts, Lumiere and Cogsworth paid a visit to children at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 1.

Schriever volunteers donned the roles of fairy tale characters to put a smile on the faces of ill children.

“We’re here to spread some cheer to children who maybe aren’t feeling too cheerful right now,” said Mary Barkley, 50th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Services flight chief.

The volunteers got into character as they made their way down the halls, adopting the unique voices and mannerisms of their respective characters. Shy faces peered around corners and assessed the magic brought to life, some bursting into smiles, others with timid trepidation, as parents exclaimed, “Look who’s here!”

“This is what it’s all about,” said 1st Lt. Sarah D’Alessandro, 50 FSS AFS deputy, after seeing the smiles on the children’s faces. “I think we’re on this earth to help other people. This kind of thing is really rewarding to us. It hits home.”

Preventative health measures forbade the volunteers from entering the kids’ rooms, but the children were allowed to step out into the hallways to meet Beauty and the Beast and other Disney characters.

For Jessica Wasko, St. Francis certified child life specialist, the opportunity for the children to leave the reality of their hospital rooms into the magical world of fairy tales could be key to healing.

“Anytime something to do with play and fun comes in, it lifts their spirits,” Wasko said. “The better you feel, the happier you are, I really think it helps promote the healing process.”

Barkley, who was dressed as Belle, agreed.

“When kids aren’t feeling well, it’s nice to make them feel better,” Barkley said. “I think having us go there dressed up as characters from a movie that just came out, it is something that’s familiar to them and makes them feel better.”

For D’Alessandro, who dressed as Cogsworth, the event was also about letting out her inner kid.

“I’m still a big kid at heart and I think we all kind of are,” D’Alessandro said. “This is fun; it’s not work. When we were young, we all imagined ourselves as these characters. Now, here we are able to dress up as them keep the fairytale alive for children who are ill.”

The crew of volunteers brought smiles not only to the faces of children, but also to Wasko.

“I think this is awesome,” Wasko said with a smile. “It brings a lot of normalcy for the kids. Seeing something that is familiar for them is wonderful. We would have these guys out here every day if we could; it really brightens everyone spirits.”

Barkley related the story line of Beauty and the Beast to the likely outcomes for the children in treatment.

“They’re in a bad situation,” Barkley said. “There’s confusion and uncertainty, but you just have a feeling everything is going to work out in the end. Dreams still come true.”
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