It’s a scene out of a movie: A child looks up and grows wide-eyed, seeing a fairy princess coming to greet him.
For some Nevada children, that is how it has been since fall 2011 when Lisa Coruzzi and her friend, Saliha Lezha, first appeared in costume at a Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation event.
“The expression on the children’s faces was unforgettable; they just light up,” Coruzzi said. “It never gets old.”
Members of her foundation, Enchanted Encounters, have been visiting children at hospitals and appearing at special events ever since. They have volunteered for a variety of children’s organizations: Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada; Ronald McDonald House Charities; Best Buddies; the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; Kids for Peace; Dress for Success; the Children’s Heart Foundation; and the Hemophilia Foundation of Nevada. She’s also visited Wengert Elementary School, 2001 Winterwood Blvd., and Peterson Elementary School, 3650 S. Cambridge St.
At events, the characters pose for pictures, find out more about the children and get spontaneous hugs.
“Every child deserves a fairy tale,” Coruzzi said.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate program in Las Vegas hosted Enchanted Encounters at one of its Angel Tree events, serving more than 1,500 foster children.
“Lisa and the other princesses were the hit of our party,” said Kathy Espin, internship coordinator for CASA. “They were mobbed the minute they walked into the room. … The ladies were on their feet for hours. You can’t sit easily in a hoop skirt, you know.”
Gretchen Papez, spokeswoman for the Valley Health System, first met Coruzzi when a TV station was at one of Valley’s hospitals, taping a segment on the foundation.
“Our (pediatric) patients — and their parents — were so delighted a princess was coming to visit them while they were in the hospital,” Papez said. “She put a smile on everyone’s face, read stories with them one-on-one and made each little (child) feel extra special.”
Enchanted Encounters began with two characters. Within six months, it added a Native American princess. Other characters inspired by children’s books and movies followed. Now, there are six costumed characters in the lineup. The outfits are based on children’s fairy tales and made by Cathie France, who also makes custom wedding gowns.
“If you have a passion for something, then things fall into place,” Coruzzi said. “Once I had the (idea) on my radar, it seemed like I kept randomly meeting girls who were a perfect fit. It’s not just about dressing up; I imagine a lot of girls want to dress up as a princess, but they all have to have charitable backgrounds. For me, it’s ‘Have you helped charitable organizations in the past or have you never lifted a finger to help in any cause?’ All my girls have some type of charitable background. A lot of them approached me and asked, ‘How can I help?’ “
Coruzzi said whatever the children get out of it, she and her fellow characters get more, just from seeing the children’s transfixed smiles.
For more information about Enchanted Encouters, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit facebook.com/enchantedencountersnv.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.