University students bring a moment of magic to hospitalized children

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Shara Moskowitz’s daughter, Avery, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma in 2013. On Avery’s 6th birthday, she was visited by a group of very special princesses, who her mother said allowed her to forget about her illness and just focus on being a kid that day.

Among the princesses, all university students, are Kylee McGrane and Maggie McAndrew from the Bronx, New York. Together, the two started A Moment of Magic (AMOM), themselves and other volunteers dressing up as movie characters to visit sick children at hospital wards, fundraisers, and in Avery’s case, their homes.

“We’ve never said no to a visit, so any time a parent or a patient or a hospital reaches out to us, we do whatever we can to make it happen,” said McGrane.

AMOM began when McGrane and McAndrew, watching the movie Frozen, were hit with the realization that the two resemble the main characters, Elsa and Anna. Inspired by their passion of helping people, they came up with the idea of bringing a little bit of hope to children who, diagnosed with severe illnesses, find it hard to be the happy and carefree kids they should be.

he pair have recruited over 40 students within their college to be volunteers, providing around five visits per week in the New York area. But they aren’t stopping here; they’re working to set up chapters of AMOM at universities across America so more children can experience these special visits.

"For me, making these lasting connections with kids and their families is super important," McAndrew told TODAY Parents. "We get to make this really awesome, personal memory with the kids, and then, in a lot of cases, the parents keep us updated and we get to keep up with the kids on their journeys."

Image via A Moment of Magic Facebook page

NGO uses basketball for empowerment and education in Chennai, India

Research has shown that athletics and education intertwine; the soft skills learnt in the field or on the court – hard work, resilience and goal-setting – translate into the walls of a classroom. It is with this philosophy that Shaun Jayachandran, an educator and basketball coach in America, started Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy in Chennai, India.

“Basketball is the perfect sport for India – it’s high energy, low space, low cost, ten people can play with one ball and basket – and it is constantly associated with education in the US from the high school and college level,” said Shaun.

Crossover provides free basketball programs to low-income students in Chennai, where less than 7% graduate high school. The program emphasises four main pillars: leadership, communication, character and teamwork. Every year, Crossover runs a fortnightly camp in the summer, giving students activities to look forward to and motivation to continue on at school when the holidays end.

Volunteers are professional basketball players, college students and college- or high school-age athletes. Most are from the US, while some hail locally from India.

“When I first heard about Crossover, it seemed like an incredible organization that combined my interest in education reform, my love for playing basketball—a sport that I have been playing since I could walk—and my cultural ties to India,” Shila Agarwal, a volunteer who had recently graduated from MIT, said.

Since its establishment in 2012 when the program hosted 45 children, Crossover has grown in popularity and have had to cap its attendance in order to ensure the quality of instruction. Positive impacts such as fewer violent tendencies of students, increased empathy and higher interest in learning have been observed.

Further along the line, Crossover hopes to establish Crossover Corps, a program in which young recent college graduates will spend a year or two in India, following up with student participants and conducting weekend sessions for them throughout the year.

“This will further create sustained lasting impact as we track each alum of our program and ensure that they have support in their pursuits,” said Shaun. “Establishing this will allow us to therefore expand our model to other cities with confidence in our impact on education.”

Images via Crossover Basketball Facebook page