It was fifteen years ago when I saw the Big Apple light up for the first time. The first thing that caught my attention was the Mcdonald’s in Times Square, naturally, but it wasn’ t the last.
It was my seventh birthday, and like nearly every little girl in 2007 what I wanted could be found wrapped in a red box with white letters spelling “American Girl.”
We danced, dined and doll shopped and I returned home with a new friend, my doll Emily. And since that visited fifteen years ago, I have visited American Girl stores over eight times in five states. I hadn’t picked up a doll in nearly ten years when I founded Glimmer of Hope, but when I did, the magic of my time in the New York store and my many American Girl induced memories as a child flooded back to me.
It wasn’t until last December (2021) that a new idea fell upon me. While we were filming for the Ellen Degeneres Show, I had the opportunity to meet a very special girl named Malia. That day was intended to be about giving Malia presents, but the gift I left with, the gift of meeting her, was far greater than what she received. That day, I found out that Malia was going to spend Christmas in the hospital in New York City. I couldn’t imagine how awful it must be to spend the holidays confined to a hospital room, and on top of that how isolating it must be with the COVID restrictions at the time.
It was then I decided we needed to do something extra special for Christmas to bring Malia a moment of happiness during a difficult time. Last year, just two days after Christmas, we were able to take Malia, and another little girl, Anjali, on seperate shopping sprees to the American Girl Store in New York City. It was such a special time to get to know these families and see the girls’ faces light up through such a magical experience. Before we left the city we decided to make it a yearly tradition!
Thanks to the generosity of our donors and sponsors, we were able to make that tradition annual! This year we were so fortunate to partner with the DoubleTree by Hilton Fifth Avenue in New York City. Lenna, the hotel manager, was absolutely amazing to work with. She was incredibly understanding of the support we require to make experiences like this possible, and gifted us a two night stay at the hotel. We stayed on the 26th floor, and had an incredible view of the city, directly overlooking the tree at Rockefeller Center. The hotel was right across the street from Rockefeller Center, and about 15 steps from the American Girl Store, making it an ideal location! The hotel staff were kind, warm and very helpful. I cannot recommend this hotel enough if you’re making a trip to the city, as they are not only a great stay but extremely charitable! Thank you DoubleTree by Hilton Fifth Avenue!
This year we had the pleasure of bringing two little girls, Jenni and Sarah on individual shopping sprees. We started our trip with Sarah, her dad, and Jackie, the incredible child life specialist who connected us with these special girls. Sarah is six years old and battling cancer, but that did not cloud her sass, spunk or sparkle. We had such a fun time shopping, getting her doll’s hair and nails done, and enjoying a lunch in the AG Cafe. Sarah made us all laugh with her interesting food choices, such as pigs in a blanket dipped in chocolate sauce. We even got to have our own little fashion show in the personal shopping lounge where she showed us her new outfits to match with her doll, “Princess JoJo Siwa.”
Jenni’s smile lit up the tour as we walked in for her first time ever. We had the opportunity to attend the Doll of the Year 2023 Brunch, and it just so happened that when we walked into the cafe, the doll of the year, Kavi, was waiting at Jenni’s seat for her. 😉
Her reaction was priceless. We spent the rest of our time at the store enjoying brunch, hearing about Kavi’s story, picking out new outfits, furniture and even a miniature version of the cafe for her doll. Yet again we spent the day with Ariyanna, who acted as our personal shopper for the day and ended the day with a fashion show/photoshoot in the personal shopping lounge.
None of these magical experiences would be possible without the contributions made by our generous donors and sponsors. We are gearing up for 2023 to be our biggest year yet, full of hope for hundreds of children! Thank you to all who contributed to make this possible, and thank you to the DoubleTree by Hilton Fifth Avenue for hosting us for our time in NYC!