As the weeks of sheltering at home stretch into months, mundane days have been made magical for some children in Arkansas thanks to a special visitor.
She makes her arrival and swiftly takes her position in the driveway. Small hands open the front door (sometimes with the help of mom and dad) and the reactions of delight are instantaneous.
And thus begins an enchanted afternoon with a princess.
Lauren McCullough has been performing as a party princess for nearly five years. A former TV news reporter, liaison for the governor and now small business owner, she has a special knack for connecting with people, and making everyone, especially children, feel special.
When COVID-19 closed down most of our regular activities, including school, McCullough naturally thought of the kids first. She envisioned becoming a bright spot for them during humdrum days. So she set out to spread joy, not germs, by volunteering her time to help boost spirits and sharing her own sunny spirit. It's something St. Jude does particularly well, too: Letting kids just be kids and giving them special moments to take their minds off the terrible stuff.
We won’t name names, but in her day job, Lauren has been nearly every type of character you can imagine — and some you can’t. In addition to a certain winter-loving princess, she has been an ’80s rocker, a ’20s flapper, wrestling groupie, circus ringleader, Santa’s elf and more.
But back to the enchantment, and those special interactions (social-distant appropriate, of course, although some excited little ones make it a challenge).
During her visit, this princess sings with the kids, shows them how to curtsy and asks if they’ve been picking up their toys and doing their schoolwork. She then teaches the newfound skill she learned just for the occasion — how to give an air hug, infusing a little bit of magic into it as she responds to the acted out, yet incredibly heartfelt, embrace.
“To see the faces of these kids light up when they see a character from their favorite story come to life, that is why I’m doing this,” McCullough said. “I encourage them to spread joy, not germs, in a way that also helps them understand a little better what is happening, and how they can be helpers, too.”
We’re all in this together, and during these scary times we can still share kindness and positivity.”
Lauren comes about her particular brand of positivity quite honestly. She credits her family for her sunny outlook on life. Even in the challenging days following her father’s diagnosis with pancreatic cancer in 2016, her family found a way to bring their Nashville, Ark., community together because, as she puts, no one fights alone. As hundreds rallied with “Fists for Floyd” bracelets for her father when he was at his weakest, Lauren discovered the power of kindness.
And that even a seemingly small gesture, whether it be a bracelet or a princess visit, can leave a tremendous impact.