Life Update: The Wishes Foundation

HELLO EVERYONE! Wow, it has been quite a while since my last post. I have to admit that I have been slacking big time with the blog lately. Life has been ridiculously busy, and I’m in some pretty tough classes this semester. I’ve also recently assumed the position of president/CEO of a new non-profit organization, which is exactly what I’m writing about today!

I have always been a “Disney kid.” I was lucky enough to be able to go to Disney World very frequently as a child, and many of my fondest memories were made at the happiest place on Earth. I always dreamed of one day being a Disney princess and getting to bring smiles and magic to children every day. Now, that dream of mine is finally coming true, and no, it’s not in the way that you might think!

No, I’m not going to be working for Disney. (Although that is still a very viable career pathway for the future!) But I will be living out my dream by visiting underprivileged children as famous princesses! I recently founded The Wishes Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of children by bringing love and magic to the kids who need it the most.

I have thought about this idea for years now, but I was truly inspired when I saw a video of A Moment of Magic Foundation (AMOMF), which is an organization based in New York that does the same type of thing. I was in awe that these girls had the same idea as me, and that they were actually pursuing it! I quickly enlisted the help of my Disney-loving friend, Rachael, and we got to work preparing to form a chapter of AMOM at Belmont. Unfortunately, Belmont rejected our student organization application due to liability concerns, and we were back to square one. We still loved AMOM and wanted to be involved, but they were only expanding to college campuses – and our university would not grant us permission to form a chapter.

After lots of thinking, Rachael and I decided to form our own local community organization. We were so passionate about the idea, and we didn’t want to let our university get in the way. We also didn’t want to “copy” off of AMOM, but we simply needed to affiliated with some type of organization in order to be credible to institutions. Thus, The Wishes Foundation was born! To give you a better look at what the foundation is all about, here’s a short excerpt from our “about” page on our website:

“The Wishes Foundation exists to serve needy children by bringing the world’s most beloved fairytale characters to life. College students from Belmont University dress up as famous storybook figures and interact with children in pediatric hospitals, special need schools, and social service institutions. Founded in 2016 by Kat O’Neill and Rachael Keneally, two freshmen at Belmont University, the goal of Wishes is to bring love and magic by fostering one-on-one interactions and supplying personalized attention to children who need it the most. This non-profit organization consists of members with a passion for service, performance, and pediatric interaction. The Wishes Foundation is unique in that it is dedicated to providing top-notch character portrayal so that suffering children can forget about their struggles and escape to a fairytale world.”

I never imagined that our idea would ever get off the ground, but it did! After months of planning, fundraising, and fighting the system, we were able to buy our first two character costumes. We had our very first visit last week at a family shelter in Nashville, and it was an incredible experience.

Forming a non-profit has been a lot more time consuming than I thought! Although we just want to be a small, local organization, the amount of paperwork and research that must be done is immense. We also spent so much time training, practicing, and learning our characters. Today, I finished the legal paperwork and tax-exemption application. Rachael and I have spent countless hours planning, researching, and making decisions, but I have never been more excited and passionate about anything. Our love for the cause and the characters make it fun. It is incredible to be an expert about Elsa and get to banter back and forth with Anna (Rachael). And the smiles on the kids’ faces when they see their two favorite princesses walk into the room make everything worth it.

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So I guess the point of this message is that it’s never easy. I have been met with so many challenges along the way – from denial, to doubt from others, to putting myself in debt to pay for startup expenses. The bottom line is that many people don’t think that two college girls can succeed at a project like this. I think many people are under the impression that we are out to be the next big non-profit, but in reality, all we want to do is spread a little bit of joy throughout Nashville. We aren’t looking for recognition, praise, or “approval.” With the Wishes Foundation, we are just on a mission to make a little bit of a difference. As Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

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Today, the message I want to give you is to never give up. Keep plugging along, and it will all be worth it in the end. I like to think of this experience as a journey, and although I’ve experienced many setbacks, I have also experienced so many small victories. This idea was once just a silly little thought in my scatterbrained head, and now it is becoming a reality. So, go live your dream. It might not always be easy, but it’s always possible!

Please consider donating to our GoFundMe campaign! Your donations will help us purchase princess costumes so we can expand to more characters and bring more smiles.

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