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UNC students bring joy to children in hospitals with Moment of Magic

moment of magic

Members of UNC's A Moment of Magic Foundation, through which UNC students work with ill children. Contributed by Travis Hayes.

To most kids, the world revolves around recess and their next birthday party, but for the 27 percent of U.S. children that live with chronic illnesses, it’s not that simple. UNC’s A Moment of Magic Foundation is working to bring joy into these kids’ lives.

A Moment of Magic Foundation is a nonprofit organization that gives college students the opportunity to meet and interact with medically vulnerable children, including cancer patients, children with birth defects and children with physical or mental disabilities. 

Sophomore Julia Drahzal started UNC’s chapter of the organization in March of 2018.  There are currently 80 volunteers, 45 of which are “character volunteers.” Some of A Moment of Magic’s most popular, free-of-charge services are “princess visits” and “superhero visits.” During these visits, character volunteers dress up as the children’s favorite movie characters.

All the volunteers with A Moment of Magic are passionate about their work with medically vulnerable children. Drahzal said her inspiration to start a chapter at UNC stemmed from suddenly losing a family friend.

“She was really young, so I knew I wanted to do something in her honor to make sure her legacy lived on, and this was what came out of it,” Drahzal said.

Drahzal said one of her most memorable experiences as a character volunteer is visiting a hospitalized girl named Lauren who had the character Drahzal was dressed as on her T-shirt and bed sheets. Lauren told Drahzal she would never forget meeting her. 

“She knew everything about my movie, everything about me, so it was really exciting to meet someone who was so enthralled with the idea of meeting their role model,” Drahzal said.

Drahzal said A Moment of Magic visits children’s hospitals, social service institutions and patients’ homes all around the area. She said they have visited patients up to three hours away because of their commitment to bring joy to as many children’s lives as possible.

As a nonprofit, A Moment of Magic is reliant on fundraising opportunities and sponsorships from local businesses. North Carolina-based general contractor Hayco Construction partnered with the organization in January 2019 as a sponsor. Founder and CEO Travis Hayes’ daughter, Elise Hayes, is a character volunteer with A Moment of Magic.

Hayes said he became involved with A Moment of Magic through Elise. He said his daughter sent him pictures of herself and the other volunteers visiting medically vulnerable children, and he knew immediately that he wanted to find a way to help.

“Given that college students are the next generation of leaders, innovators and dreamers, I feel that if we invest into them and their interests, we contribute to the evolution of society,” Hayes said.

Hayco Construction is a client of UNC student-run Blueprint Business Communications. Junior Matt Potts and senior Brice Connors are the project manager and co-founder of Blueprint Business Communications, respectively. Their team is focused on promoting businesses through social media.

Potts and Connors said the partnership between Hayco Construction and A Moment of Magic was born out of Hayes’ wish to give back to his daughter’s community.

Potts’ girlfriend also happens to be Hayes’ daughter, Elise. Potts said Elise recently visited a hospitalized girl who knew she was not an actual princess, but he thinks the most impactful contribution the Moment of Magic volunteers are making is simply being there.

“She was kind of just able to hang out with her and be someone that she could talk to, and being that for them I think is really nice,” Potts said.

Sophomore volunteer Heidi Kreis sings the same tune. She said being a part of A Moment of Magic has benefitted her by giving her the opportunity to have fun and act like a kid again, but she knows their work is even more impactful to the medically vulnerable children the organization serves.

“While I can’t fix everything, this organization allows me to at least add a little magic to a child’s day,” Kreis said.


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