Dev Thimmisetty
Mercury Staff

Members of UTD community dress as Disney princesses to support children facing serious illnesses

Out of all the children celebrating at HopeWalk, there seemed to only be one who was crying. At the sight of Anna, her favorite character from “Frozen,” the girl’s tears stopped flowing as her face shifted from a frown to a smile.

Interdisciplinary studies senior Brea Baygents was the princess playing Anna who made this girl’s day at a HopeWalk for HopeKids event on Oct. 7, when children were celebrating their years of remission from cancer or life-threatening illnesses. To this day, Baygents said this was one of her favorite experiences as a member of Princesses with a Purpose, an organization using Disney characters to brighten the lives of children, some of whom are facing serious illnesses.

“Seeing that little girl get distracted by me and stop crying — it was just adorable,” Baygents said. “Our mission is to bring hope, joy, love and happiness to the people, and I think we really are doing that.”

Princesses with a Purpose is an organization serving the DFW area founded in 2014, and originally operated separately from UTD. However, Miranda Dymond, healthcare studies sophomore and president of the club, and the other officers formed a student organization on campus during the spring of 2016 to gather the attention of more students.

Dymond said the club provides a way for students to combine their diversified interests of Disney and make a difference in the lives of sick children.

“Disney’s something I’ve been a big fan of since I was a child, and a lot of us still are,” Dymond said. “The idea of being able to help children while doing something that I’m really passionate about really appealed to me. I think that’s the driving force for a lot of us.”

The student group partners with Texas Scottish Rite Hospital to individually meet children suffering from illnesses or to bring cheer to groups of children in the hospital while dressed up as Disney characters. They also participate in community events, such as parades, charity walks and photo shoots, to meet with children who may not be hospitalized and spread awareness of the organization.

Dymond said the biggest obstacle is increasing the involvement from UTD students.

“A lot of people out there simply haven’t heard about us,” she said. “We are trying to get our name out there, but trying to do it in a way that attracts people. It sounds like a lot of work and that it’ll be really time consuming, but we don’t just need character performers. We need general volunteers as well.”

The key is to capture student interest and then inform them, Baygents said.

“We’re hoping to take over the Plinth one day and do a character photo shoot because that would be really cool,” she said. “The more members we have, the more events we can do.”

Even though it may be time consuming to set events up and go through training, the outcome will be worth it, Baygents said.

“We literally spread happiness for the kids and the volunteers,” she said. “We cheer them up, and at the same time, we are having fun too, goofing off just a little bit all the time.”