Today marks the launch of a movement that's benefitting terminally ill little girls across America. The #beYOUtiful campaign, spearheaded by a collaboration between The For a Day Foundation and digital couture shop Indira, tackles the insidious aspects of childhood cancer often overlooked: loss of normality and self-esteem.
The Foundation held its first event in 2000 after creator Jenna Edwards took note of how happy it made one sick little girl just to wear a tiara.
"The most important lesson I’ve learned from working with the children is simple," Edwards explains on the Foundation's site. "Kids fight to stay kids. As children do, they have an optimistic mind-set. Even though some of them have illnesses that will take their lives, they somehow always hold onto their innocence. If these kids can stay optimistic about their personal struggles, so can the rest of us!"
When combating such severe sickness it's often easy to focus solely on dwindling physical health, letting the mental stress and trauma of the disease run its course. That's why the For a Day Foundation and its events are so important.
Indira, which sells affordable couture dresses online, agrees. Its partnered with the Foundation to raise money for girls just like these. Under the #beYOUtiful campaign, 20 percent of the proceeds from any Indira purchase made goes straight to the children who need it most.
The company's employees themselves are directly involved as volunteers. Indira Founder/CEO Carrie Mantha, who Bustle featured two months ago, said that the teams "had a shared passion for making women of all ages look and feel uniquely beautiful."
"Last week we had a Queen for a Day event at NYU Tisch, where many of the girls were very sick," Mantha tells Bustle. "We had to enter their rooms wearing surgical gowns and gloves. This made it a bit of a challenge to do manicures and apply makeup, but by the end of the treatment you'd never know these little princesses were sick! They were bouncing around their rooms posing for pictures in their tiaras and feather boas and asking if they could be models on the website!"
Though there are several For a Day programs which include morale-building activities, the signature Queen for a Day program is especially notable. Hospital rooms are reconstructed to reflect the fun, frivolous parts of life that these girls are missing out on most, complete with miniature spas, manicures, makeovers and most importantly "messages of inner beauty and outer strength."
The girls take an imaginative step outside the hospital room and delve into a world of fantasy, delight, and fluffy pink boas. They don real tiaras, magical scepters and purple capes as they're doted upon by those who understand how vital it truly is that their identities and illnesses are made separate.
"Jenna shared one of my favorite anecdotes recently," Mantha tells Bustle, "and it involves a little girl who passed away shortly after the Queen for a Day event. Her parents found a letter she had written to them telling them not to be sad or afraid for her and asking to buried with her tiara on because that's how she felt the most beautiful. I still can't tell that story without tearing up, and I'm so thankful to be involved in something that touches children in such a profound way."
Other events include Hero for a Day, where Spider-Man himself might just visit to remind kids to maintain bravery and courage during the most difficult time of their lives. Another is Designer for a Day, where fashion designers visit kids to share outfit sketches, stories of the runway, and offer the much-needed distraction that comes with free VIP access to their fashion shows themselves.
The Foundation now holds chapters from New York to Alaska. Chapters can be held anywhere an interested party age 21 or over is willing.
Chapters are supported heavily, provided extensive training and items like individually packaged, sterilized makeup and unique feather boas manufactured by a factory that specializes them for children with compromised immune systems.
More information on getting involved with the For a Day Foundation, and if you're in the market for some affordable new threads, head to Indira and feel good about your purchase.
Images: The For a Day Foundation (3)