For all four years of college, civil engineering senior Olivia Pauls has maintained two personalities: a student and a princess.
As one of the founding members of Royal Encounters, Pauls has spent many days taking on the persona of various Disney princesses to bring joy and magic to children through the Greater Lansing community. The club, which was started by Pauls’ cousin in 2020, has worked with organizations across Lansing to host events for children in need to meet their favorite princesses and superheroes.
Pauls, the club’s current president, said the goal of the club is to provide children facing medical issues or family issues the opportunity to just be children and enjoy the magic of meeting their favorite characters.
“A lot of them have a lot going on, a lot more than any child should have to face,” Pauls said. “Being able to kind of distract from that moment and let them kind of just be a kid again … it's super powerful for them too and it's a great way for them to feel super special.”
On the day of an event, Pauls meets up with her fellow club members to put on their wigs, makeup and costumes together. Once she’s ready, she is no longer Olivia the Michigan State senior; she is a real-life Disney princess.
“You are the character and not a person dressing as a character,” Pauls said. “You're there for the kid."
Human Development and Family Studies senior and Royal Encounters Vice President Lexie Merkel-Fisher said the group has a slideshow from the Indiana University chapter that includes all of the essential information each character should know. She said getting ready together is especially helpful.
At events, the princesses and superheroes are joined by chaperones that help them in makeup or hair emergencies, Merkel-Fisher said.
“(Chaperones) are the people who hold your phone and your lip gloss and eyelash glue, stuff like that,” Merkel-Fisher said. “Extra bobby pins in case you need to fix anything.”
Royal Encounters partners with organizations like the Capitol Area Down Syndrome Association, local libraries, Impression 5 and A Kid Again. Pauls said her favorite memory was at a moment at A Kid Again event where she recognized a young girl and was able to surprise her by asking her about things she remembered from the last time they met.
“I remembered something specifically about her family and so I got to be able to ask that,” Pauls said. “To see her face and how excited she was that Elsa knew something about her and knew who she was and remembered, it was just such a magical experience for me too.”
Later this year, Royal Encounters are planning on holding a lunch event to celebrate kids who were recently adopted, Pauls said. They are also looking into working with the Special Olympics, Merkel-Fisher said.
“We got invited to go to (the adoption) event,” Pauls said. “And I think it's just going to be super heartwarming for all of our members who get to be involved with that.”
Merkel-Fisher said students who are interested in joining Royal Encounters should reach out to the club through their Instagram, @royalencountersmsu.
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