IU sophomores Haley Sample and Emily Boehm met last year when they lived on the same floor of their dorm. One year later, they are leaders of a new club, Royal Encounters at IU, which is dedicated to giving children a magical experience.
"It started last year when we were just sitting in my dorm room,” said Haley Sample, president of Royal Encounters at IU. “On my phone I saw an ad for a group who dressed up and visited kids in the hospital and I said to Emily, ‘This is so cool! We should do this!’ So we started researching.”
Royal Encounters is a volunteer organization in which members dress up as popular children’s movie characters and visit patients at the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Sample and Boehm first created Royal Encounters in January of last year and it became an official IU club in August. When they first attended the Student Involvement Fair this fall, they said more than 300 students expressed interest in joining.
On April 6, IU students dressed as princes, princesses and superheroes brought the children’s favorite characters to life at Royal Encounters' first visit to Riley. They spent the day participating in activities with the children such as a “make your own crown” station, a photo booth, coloring books and tattoos.
“We went to the ICU floor to see the children who couldn’t come downstairs to participate in the main activities, and we visited a girl with a developmental disability," Sample said. "She couldn’t communicate very well, but when she saw the princesses she had the biggest smile. It felt great because her family got to enjoy seeing her so happy,” said Sample.
Boehm said the Royal Encounters not only benefits the children at Riley, but it is a rewarding experience for the students as well.
“The kid’s faces were a level above happiness,” said Boehm. “They were in such a good place, which doesn't often happen for them. It was so worth it to see this entire year’s worth of work show up on the kids faces.”
Royal Encounters is now scheduled to visit Riley on the first Friday of every month. The club is also scheduling new events around Bloomington. On April 30, Royal Encounters plans to visit to Girls Inc., a non-profit organization that provides educational programs for young girls of Monroe county.
“We want to show the girls at Girls Inc. why they are a princess,” said Sample. “We want to show them how they demonstrate the same qualities that all the characters have.”