By Felicia Kitzmiller
Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013
Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter talks with Daniella Vasquez, 7, during a Fantasyland at Wofford College in Spartanburg Saturday. the event included many Disney-themed storybook characters come to life for the children to experience.
Photo by: Tim Kimzey, Spartanburg Herald-Journal (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The sun-drenched lawn at Wofford College was transformed into a magical Fantasyland for the enjoyment of 400 disadvantaged children on Saturday.
Children raced from sword fighting lessons with the daring street rat, "Aladdin," to story time with "Beauty and the Beast" heroine and bookworm, Belle. The more romantically inclined indulged in ballroom dancing with Cinderella and Prince Charming, while others investigated Alice's Wonderland with the Mad Hatter or painted ornate symbols with Moulin, the Chinese debutante turned warrior.
Elaborate costumes and decorations allowed participants to be consumed by one fairy tale after another.
"It's kind of letting them let their hair down and play and enjoy magic," said Lakesha McCutchen, who accompanied her daughter's Boys & Girls Club to the event.
Shawna Bynum brought her two children. She said she was worried when she realized the event was geared to a slightly younger age group, but they jumped in and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
"Anytime you have something positive for youth, it can only be magical," Bynum said.
Organizer Kulsoom Haq, a Wofford sophomore, said she was overwhelmed by the success of the event. As a member of Wofford's Impact scholarship group, she was inspired by her love of Disney World to use her community service event to indulge disadvantaged children in a day of suspended reality.
"It helps kids open up to their dreams and passions," she said. "If they have passions, they're going to work harder to achieve them."
Making the impossible possible:
When she was young, Haq remembers visiting Disney World and believing anything was possible.
As a college student, she volunteers at Children Shelter of the Upstate and said she has encountered children who are faced with terrible situations beyond their control. Others have loving families who lack the financial means for an expensive journey to Disney.
"There's no way these kids would ever go, and I just thought that wasn't fair," she said.
Haq relied on volunteers to bring her vision to life, and teamed up with the Wofford service group Twin Towers. Setting up for Fantasyland started at 6:30 a.m. Children started arriving at 11 a.m., and the place didn't clear out until 4 p.m.
It was a long day, but Shaakira Brown, a Wofford freshman who assumed the role of Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, said the hours were well worth the reward.
"I have to find the right word for it. There's something genuine about seeing a kid smile," she said.
"You don't think about being fatigued. Every time you see a kid smile at you, it warms you."
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