Cinderella, Snow White offer comfort to children, families
Kim Bowman and Adele Davis have a very important date and they can’t be late.
Instead of getting dressed for work Aug. 1, the duo transformed into Cinderella and Snow White. With princess wand- and sword-shaped cookies from Storybook Sweets Shop in Prairieville, as well as “Comfort Care” bags, the two women head to Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital to visit some of its most special patients and their parents.
Bowman knows firsthand what it’s like to have a child in the hospital. On New Year’s Day 2011, Kim and Trey Bowman’s 7-year-old daughter Bella was diagnosed with an ependymoma brain tumor. She had surgery to remove the tumor, followed by eight months of radiation. Eight months later Bella developed brain stem radiation necrosis, a rare side effect from the radiation treatments.
Once doctors at OLOL Children’s Hospital realized her condition was fatal, the goal was to make Bella and her family as comfortable as possible.
“When Bella was at The Lake, every day we’d get together with her doctors and nurses and say, ‘What can we do to help her get through the day?’” says Bowman. “One day, one of the nurses dressed up like Cinderella. She told Bella, ‘You’re my princess.’ To see the smile on Bella’s face … she was so happy and excited to see Cinderella.”
Two days before Christmas, less than a year since her diagnosis, Bella died, her parents by her side. In coping with their grief, the Bowmans established the Bella Bowman Foundation.
One of its missions is to provide “Comfort Care” to the community that embraced the family in its time of need. Once a month, Bowman drops by the Children’s Hospital with bags for those who are in the hospital long term.
“They’re reusable linen bags that contain a blanket, a roll of quarters, good shampoo, toothpaste and a toothbrush, mints, snacks, a pad with a pen attached and a calendar … everything I would have liked to have had when Bella was in the hospital,” says Bowman. “A lot of the items are donated. There’s a mom-and-pop gas station in Central that has a jar by the cash register — that’s where the quarters come from. They’ve probably raised $2,000 or more.”
During one of her visits, a specialist mentioned that Cinderella from “Disney on Ice” was supposed to come by for a visit. When Mickey Mouse showed up instead, some of the children were disappointed, especially the girls.
“I thought to myself, I can be Cinderella,” says Bowman. “I went to a costume store and told them I wanted a ‘real’ Cinderella costume. Someone had ordered one and then didn’t buy it. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. We have someone here at the salon (SOHO Boutique Salon) who’s great at makeup and she made me look like Cinderella.”
Bowman shared plans for her new adventure with hospital board member Suzanne Campbell, who told her about her niece, Adele Davis. Davis dressed up like Snow White for niece Riley Rush’s birthday.
“I’m a teacher, so I love kids,” says Davis, who teaches physical education at Woodlawn Elementary School. “And I love to dress up, so I get to do two of my favorite things and make children smile.”
“We’ve brought so many smiles to those children’s faces … it was amazing,” says Bowman, who adds that mother-in-law Janet Bowman accompanies them on their visits and takes photos of the patients with their princess of choice.
The foundation then sends them a photo to commemorate the visit.
“If Bella had been in a hospital room and Cinderella and Snow White had come to visit, it would have made her day,” says Bowman.
“It’s really made me realize how precious … delicate children are and that simple things can make them smile,” says Davis. “I have a magical apple with me and they all tell me not to eat it, but I tell them it has fairy dust on it so they can make a wish. Using my Snow White voice I tell them to have a magical day,” she said.
“It makes me so happy to know I can help make them happy and feel better for even just a little while.”