Every kid deserves to see themselves reflected on screen, in books, and in real life.

I clung to Disney’s Pocahontas as a kid, because she looked like me, with olive skin and long, pitch black hair. I grew up in an overwhelmingly Dutch community. At different points of my childhood, citizens of our town assumed that my brother and I were, among many other backgrounds, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Native American, Israeli, African-American, or Asian. (We’re mostly really tan Italians.) My peers, having no idea of the impact of their words on me, would say things like, “You’d be pretty if you were blonde.” I rarely saw girls who looked like me, in fiction or in reality, until I saw Pocahontas. She was beautiful, and maybe that meant I could be, too.

Flash forward 15 years or so, and I’m a 22-year-old nonprofit co-founder and executive director, working with our awesome team at MEANS Database to connect excess food with people in need in 49 U.S. states and territories. In 2015, I was honored as one of L’Oreal’s Women of Worth, which is how I met Schinnell Leake, the actual saint of a woman who runs Extra-Ordinary Birthdays. Last year, EOB hosted a Halloween party and fundraiser at American University (AU), where I’m a junior. Our staff at MEANS helped out and instantly fell in love with the event. When Schinnell and her team told us this year’s theme was inspired by Disney, we knew it was time to go into full princess mode.

Between the staff and volunteers at MEANS, AU’s service fraternity APO, and the campus at large, there will be more than a dozen Disney princesses in attendance, dressed to the nines in full replica costumes. Petticoats. Wigs. Makeup. Glass slippers. You name it, we’ve found it or built it into a realistic, walking personification of the characters we grew up with. (Can you tell we’re excited?)

Knowing that the majority of kids served by EOB, and the majority of kids in attendance at the event, are children of color, we made sure to focus on having the princesses who look like them. We found our princesses of color first, prioritizing the characters that will reflect the kids looking up at them. We have Jasmine, Pocahontas, Tiana, Moana, and even Elena of Avalor, of the Disney Channel show of the same name. (We’re still on the hunt for our final princess of color, Mulan, so if you know anyone who’d fit the bill, send her our way!) Every kid deserves to see themselves reflected in the world around them, whether they resemble an independent Elsa, book-loving Belle, charming Cinderella, ambitious Tiana, or even a very tired Aurora. On October 28th, be our guest and join a whole crew of princesses, princes, superheroes, and other characters ready to make an unforgettable experience for kids of all income levels. Every child deserves to see themselves reflected in the grown-up world and to see that they are the same as anyone else, regardless of what they look like, where they grew up, or how much money their family may or may not have. We’re here to make that magic happen.

Visit eobhope4kids.weebly.com for more information and to purchase tickets to Hope for Kids.

By: Marie Rose Belding

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