Posted March 24, 2021

5 minutes with ... a part-time princess

She’s also a Temple student with A Moment of Magic, an organization that brings joy to children in hospitals.

The Mermaid Princess smiles as she hugs a child in a hospital room
Photography: Courtesy of Jane Vitelli

By dressing up as a princess, Jane Vitelli, Class of 2021, is spreading joy to the lives of children in hospitals. The media studies and production major is the Family Relations Committee Chair on the national team of A Moment of Magic, a nonprofit that provides creative programming for children with medical vulnerabilities.

Nutshell: What is A Moment of Magic (AMOM)? What’s its mission?

Jane Vitelli: We are a national 501(c)(3) organization with chapters across the U.S. led by college student volunteers. I’m a part of both the national team and Temple University’s chapter.

Our mission statement is Brave, Strong, Fearless. Brave like the kids, strong as a unit and fearless in ourselves. The creative programming that we develop can look a few different ways, and it’s all intended to bring joy to the kids who need it most. We provide creative programming for kids mostly through character visits to hospitals and other social service institutions.

Nutshell: Before the pandemic, how did AMOM serve children?

Jane: We would visit them in person sometimes bringing arts and crafts, delivering gifts or just hanging out with them!

Everything we were doing was in person. The only thing that has stayed the same from then to now is our hotline calls, where you can have kids sign up for a 30-minute Facetime or Google hangout call with their favorite character. That was mostly for kids we couldn’t reach or who were from a different country, but things have changed since the pandemic.

Nutshell: How has AMOM adapted to the pandemic?

Jane: We had to totally revamp our programming and how we operate. Hotline calls used to be such a small part of what we did and now it’s probably the biggest service we offer. We also have pre-recorded requests where parents or child care specialists can choose a character to send a special message of their own wording. They share with us their kid’s age and interests so we can create a customized, personal video that we email or text to the child.

We also do hospital livestreams. We’ll have a character or volunteer do an activity like reading stories and it will livestream for the patients to watch. There’s also something we do called Wonder Wheels, where volunteers are able to drive through neighborhoods and wave to kids from a distance.

Nutshell: Tell us about your role.

Jane: During my sophomore year I was interchapter relations chair for Temple’s chapter and then became vice president. I also got to intern on the national team, and once I did that, I decided to apply for a position with nationals.

Now, I’m the Family Relations Committee Chair on the national team, and a character and volunteer with Temple. My main role is to connect chapters to families and vice versa. I am in charge of pre-recorded video requests, sending care package gifts to kids and managing socially distanced neighborhood drive-bys.

I also help chapters figure out where they’re at. Some have been around for years and they don’t need much guidance, but for other chapters, I’ll check in and see how their relationships are going with different families and provide accommodations. Establishing connections and making them last is so important. To avoid overstepping boundaries, we find a balance between business and friendship.

Nutshell: What led you to join AMOM?

Jane: Toward the end of my freshman year I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be involved in. I saw a Facebook post from the former president about the new club coming to Temple later that spring. That next fall I went to the meetings. I remember, it had only been a few weeks when the magic experience coordinator said, “Hi, can you go on this visit next week?” and I was like “I guess!” And from there I fell in love with the mission.

I went into it wanting to be a princess, but I’m leaving as an advocate for children with pediatric cancer and other medical vulnerabilities. Once you see the impact you have on the kids and them on you, you take away so much more than you ever imagined. My problems aren’t that big when I see what’s happening in front of me. 

Nutshell: How are characters assigned to volunteers?

You start off as a magic maker (a regular volunteer) and from there you can decide if and when you want to be a character. If you’re interested, you have to complete 40 hours of shadow visits, a short audition process, which includes singing and acting, and then you raise money to buy your costume. We have two people on the national team in charge of character integrity who are in charge of casting. There are tons of characters you can be cast as!

Nutshell: Who’s your character? How do you pull off the role?

Jane: I am really good friends with the Mermaid Princess! Some of our training is on makeup, wigs and how to clean our costumes. We receive constructive criticism on how we are doing and we can get help from others who play the same role in other chapters. We are also tested on our character’s backstory. We watch the movies over and over and have a huge database with every character fact. I always used to read that over before in-person visits. 

Nutshell: In what ways does this role coincide with what you want to do in the future?

Jane: My major is media studies and production and I also have a love for kids, so I would love to work in children’s media. When I came to Temple I thought I wanted to work in news, but I knew something was off. I vividly remember visiting Lu Ann Cahn (director for career services at Klein College) and telling her I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to work in news or with kids. She told me that when I talked about the news, I didn’t look too excited, but when I talked about kids and the media, my eyes lit up. She told me about an internship at CHOP where I could work in the childlife department and create media content with and for the kids, which was such an amazing experience.

Nutshell: What has been your most transformational moment at Temple?

Jane: Professor Sherri Hope Culver came to my class and told me about a study away trip to Los Angeles with a focus on children’s media. I immediately applied and was ecstatic when I got in. I got to visit companies like Nickelodeon, Illumination, Jim Henson Company, DreamWorks and Mattel and learn about the inner workings of the industry. After my trip, I shared a little bit about my experience.

Nutshell: What’s your superpower? What’s your kryptonite?

Jane: I’m an optimist. I’m impatient.

Nutshell: What are you watching now? What’re you listening to?

Jane: This Is Us and American Idol. Rex Orange County, my king—I love him.

Nutshell: What should we be paying attention to right now?


Nutshell: What’s next for you?

I’m starting a new children’s podcast with my two friends called Mind Unwind. I’m excited to graduate, work on the podcast and of course I’ll still be working with A Moment of Magic.

—Nick Eiser