A birthday party with a twist

Owen, second from right, was granted his wish to see Disney World. His mom, Michelle, said the family trip would not have been possible without Wishes & More. (submitted photo)
Owen, second from right, was granted his wish to see Disney World. His mom, Michelle, said the family trip would not have been possible without Wishes & More. (submitted photo)

Turning 1 is always a cause for celebration.

And celebrate is exactly what a local business plans to do, but with a twist.

The Whimsy Factory is marking its first year in business with Capes & Crowns on Sunday, Oct. 18. It's part birthday party and part charity fundraiser.

When asked how the business began, co-owner Heather Fairbanks of Vadnais Heights laughs as she says her pre-school daughter loved to play dress-up, but always complained that the clothes were itchy. And once playtime was over, Fairbanks grew tired of having to sweep up the trails of glitter.

So she began thinking about selling fun, comfortable kids costumes. She got in touch with Alison Amundson, a friend and former University of Minnesota dorm roommate, and pitched the idea of starting The Whimsy Factory.

"I just said, 'Hey, do you want to do this?'" Fairbanks recalls. "It was one of those things we would talk about all the time and throw dreams back and forth, and we finally both just said, 'Yes,' and went for it."

The Whimsy Factory sells children's dress-up clothes from a variety of manufacturers. Unlike most big-box store costumes, Fairbanks says the dress-up outfits they sell feel like normal clothes.

Offering options for boys and girls, The Whimsy Factory is a traveling boutique, going to shows like the Woodbury Gift Exchange. This helps people check out the costumes and feel the difference firsthand before they make a purchase.

"That's why we go to shows. So people can actually feel and see the covered seams and soft material," Fairbanks says. "It's been really fun watching people that know about dress-up clothes go, 'Oh my goodness. I'm trading in all of mine now.'"

Having fun while helping others

As they approached their first anniversary, Fairbanks says she and Amundson felt like celebrating, but they also wanted the party to benefit others.

They decided to donate part of the money raised from their Capes & Crowns' birthday bash to Wishes & More, a Minnesota-based children's wish foundation.

"We wanted to share our wishes. We wanted it to do some good for the community" Fairbanks says.

Fairbanks is a "wish wizard" for Wishes & More, which she describes as "being like a fairy godmother except you cry a lot."

With its first wishes granted back in March 2005, Wishes & More has served over 700 kids and their families, says Joelle Nelson, senior director of communications and development.

Formed to fill the gaps of other wish-granting charities serving children with life-threatening or terminal illnesses, the wishes fulfilled are as individual as the kids themselves, Nelson says.

There are even some uniquely Minnesotan wishes, such as a hunting or fishing expeditions up north, or receiving motorized recreational equipment like snowmobiles and ATV's.

Mickey, Minnie and more

Michelle and Matt Christenson's 7-year-old Owen just had his wish of a family trip to Disney World fulfilled by Wishes & More.

When Owen was 3-months old it was discovered that he had a brain tumor. Surgery removed it, but that didn't mean he was completely out of the woods. The primary medical obstacle the boy faces now is hydrocephalus, which is the buildup of fluids around his brain. Owen has a shunt in his head to drain the fluid, Michelle explains.

Matt had heard about the Wishes & More program a while ago, and Michelle says, "It had crossed our minds ... but [now] just felt like the right time."

Owen was allowed to give three possible wishes. The first thing he wished for was bowling with President Barack Obama.

"That's an awesome wish. He's a big fan of Obama, but we also talked to him about what some other things he'd want to do," she says.

His other two wishes were going to Disney World and getting a tree house.

Michelle videotaped Owen when he got the phone call telling him that one of his wishes was being granted.

"I think we had about four or five weeks before we were supposed to go, but he was asking every single day 'Are we going to Disney World?'" Michelle remembers. "So we had to do the countdown."

This past August, Michelle, Matt, Owen and younger brother, Ethan, went to Disney World.

They got to stay at the Give Kids the World resort, which is only for "wish" families.

"There's no way we could have done this ourselves," Michelle adds.

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or staffwriter@lillienews.com.

If you go ...

The Whimsy Factory will host Capes & Crowns, a birthday bash, Sunday, Oct. 18, from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Shoreview Community Center.

Tickets purchased in advance of the Capes & Crowns party are $7, with a minimum of $5 being donated to the Wishes & More charity. If purchased at the door, tickets will be $10. There is limited availability.

Additionally, 10 percent of sales from The Whimsy Factory and Books From Sara will be donated as well.

There will also be princesses and heroes from Pretty Princess Party and Feather Blue Studios taking pictures at the event.

Tickets can be purchased at http://www.thewhimsyfactory.com/capesandcrowns/.



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