Eight months ago, Alexis Jellison did what any Disney-obsessed person would do for a Halloween costume: She went as Anna from “Frozen.”
The costume stayed inside her closet over the winter until something dawned on Jellison this spring: Maybe she could use the outfit to help cheer kids during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I bet a lot of kids are down right now,” she said to herself back in early April. “They can’t go to school or see their friends and they’d love to hear from their role models. So I would love to be able to make kids smile.”
Jellison used social media platforms to spread word of her plan. From her Facebook account (you can find her at Alexis Brenna), she posted a few photos dressed perfectly as Anna with the following message:
Hey, everyone! If any of you have princes or princesses that maybe would want a video message from Anna, let me know! Doing them free of charge. Just wanna make kiddos smile.
Shortly after, Jellison’s goodwill effort turned into a hobby that would keep her busy while juggling two jobs. Since the beginning of April, she’s made over 150 videos for kids while dressed as Anna, Rapunzel from “Tangled” and Snow White.
By doing some quick math, Jellison has made more than a dozen videos each week in the last three months for kids across South Jersey.
“I lost count after 75,” Jellison said with a laugh. “I love what I do.”
A 2015 graduate of Delran High School, Jellison grew up with Disney and said her family visits Disney World every year. She’s taken that love and found a way to give back.
Jellison tracks down the princess’ wigs and dresses, perfects each character’s makeup and produces the videos on her own. Although she can send generic messages, too, Jellison will customize the script depending on what each family member or friend wants the Disney-inspired character to say to the child.
For kids who missed out on a trip to Disney this spring, the script reads, “Really sorry we can’t hang out, but I’ll see you soon.” For kids with report cards, the message is, “Keep up the great work in school.”
“There are grandparents who can’t see their grandkids,” Jellison said. “So they want a princess to let them know that grandmom loves them. I’m just so glad I’m able to do that for people.”
For Jellison, who makes and sends the videos for free, the reward is in seeing how the kids react. She made an Anna video for an autistic boy recently and the child’s mom sent a thank-you video back.
“That’s the only payment I need,” Jellison said. “I was so over the moon to be able to help him.”
Since creating her own videos, Jellison has added another job to help her stay in character: She joined Minnie’s Magical Moments this spring. Minnie’s has a collection of more than 100 characters (superheroes, princesses, superheroes, villains and mascots) available for parties, parades or events at schools and libraries.
Before Easter, Jellison joined the troupe by participating in a parade in Pennsauken and, in recent months, has observed social distancing with friendly carside visits.
Jellison’s genuine desire to make kids smile, her careful and spot-on makeup and costume work and her enthusiasm for all things Disney lead to an obvious question: Would she ever consider taking her talents to Disney World to work as a character in the Magic Kingdom?
“I would love to do that,” Jellison said. “I’ve actually been kicking around the idea of doing the Disney college program. But obviously right now (during a pandemic), it’s kind of difficult.
“I’m not sure if it’s something I’d want to do long term,” she added, “but I would love to be able to experience it for a little while.”