Arts collaboration gives local non-profit a happily-ever-after
Helen Keller famously stated, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Her statement is borne out by the work of two Chowan University professors, their students, and local non-profit Princesses on a Mission.
Each year Steve Harders, Professor of Communication & Drama, adopts a local non-profit, donating the proceeds from Theatre@Chowan productions to their cause. Instead of charging an entrance fee, a modest donation is suggested to theatre-goers at the door. Last year, Harders adopted Princesses on a Mission, a local organization that supports children with terminal illnesses. They raised nearly $1,000 which was used toward chemo bags that were distributed to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA.
Princesses on a Mission developed from Patricia Heath’s for-profit business, Miss Patty’s Little Princess Tea Parties. The beautiful gowns used for her tea parties just sat around between engagements, so she decided to put them to better use with visits to children’s hospitals. She quickly realized how this simple gesture made a profound impact, not only on the children, but their families as well. “Families are turned upside down,” she said. “They had a healthy child and then suddenly the child has cancer or another life-threatening illness.”
The organization assists close to 50 families each year. They provide chemo bags, financial support through gas cards or groceries, and of course, princess parties, which give the children a special moment all their own. The organization also helps families emotionally and spiritually, connecting with the entire family, including siblings who can unintentionally be left out, and even grandparents. The majority of the funds to support Princesses on a Mission are raised independently. A number of churches, monthly supporters, and grants also contribute to the organization's success.
“I am so grateful that Chowan donated their play proceeds,” said Princesses on a Mission founder Patricia Heath. “Even if it was only $25 I would be grateful. Anything anyone gives me is to help those families.”
Harders first became aware of Princesses on a Mission through a flier at Pizza Inn in Ahoskie, NC. Intrigued, he decided to learn more. He discovered a Facebook page promoting the organization, but noted that the logo might need refreshing. He contacted colleague Chris Stagl, Associate Director of Graphic Design, and asked if he would create a logo for the organization. Together, they concocted a class project that would afford students hands-on experience designing for a client while giving Princesses on a Mission a marketing makeover.
Ultimately, Heath pitched the concept to Stagl’s typography class. Students took notes and reviewed the marketing platforms already in place for Princesses on a Mission in an attempt to design a new modern logo fit for a princess. Sixteen students yielded 32 designs, each presenting two options, along with a written justification of the elements of the design. The project took three weeks from start to finish, yet students spent only 24 working hours on the designs, an industry standard for turnaround. After narrowing the selections, Heath chose a design by junior Melany Garcia Lopez of Clemmons, NC, as the new Princesses on a Mission logo.
Harders and Stagl previously worked on playbills and posters for theatre productions, so they already had an established relationship. The cross-integration of the two departments, Graphics and Theater, allowed them to support a local non-profit two-fold. Additionally, students were engaged in designing the logo and performing in the plays that supported the organization. In true fairytale fashion, the collaboration ended up benefitting all those involved.