A national nonprofit that has student volunteers spend time with children fighting serious illnesses, is virtually spreading cheer during COVID-19.
A Moment of Magic, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that provides creative programming to children with serious medical illnesses, was started six years ago by Kylee McGrane. It is headquartered in NYC, but has more than 1,000 volunteers at 20 college chapters across the United States.
In 2019, it provided A Moment of Magic to more than 45,000 children at over 100 children’s hospitals.
Typically college students dress up in costume and hang out with the kids, but due to social distancing, that’s not possible. However, since March 17, it has provided virtual programming to more than 100 children in 17 states. Volunteers have gone to Bronx Lebanon, St. Barnabas and Montefiore.
Typically, volunteers for the nonprofit do 32 in-person visits a week. Nowadays, they do about four to five virtual visits.
“As hospitals have closed their doors to visitors, we have partnered with the hospitals to live stream visits directly into patient rooms, ensuring that kids still receive high quality and fun programming during treatment,” McGrane said. “We want to do what we can to get the kids some kind of interactive programming.”
McGrane, a Manhattan resident, explained this has become her life’s mission. The smiles and joy they bring kids is priceless, she said.
“It’s a humble organization,” McGrane said. “We’re not setting out to change the world. This last month has really taught me the power of positivity, joy and community.”
Students from the College of Mount Saint Vincent and Fordham University have continued its mission in the face of COVID-19. Two of the volunteers are Gabriela Marin, chapter president at Saint Vincent and Erinne Benedict, chapter president at Fordham University.
The pair explained each experience with a child is different. McGrane has relationships with hospitals and arranges for the volunteers to meet the kids. She assigns volunteers one of the 93 different costumes, which includes an island princess or fairy.
Benedict and Marin agreed that the experience impacts both the youngsters and themselves. They shared that knowing that they made the kids feel good is all that matters. This has helped prepare the girls for life after college.
“The kids are sweet, memorable and resilient,” Marin said. “They’re happy at the end of the day.”
According to Benedict, the kids have been looking forward to their visits even more now. Due to COVID, they are socially isolated, so they are super excited when they see each other virtually.
“Personally I feel a lot of joy,” Benedict said. “I never feel sadness. This opportunity really opens the door for creativity. It found a new passion in me.”