Young Cancer Patients Transform Into Fairy Tale Characters Thanks to Princess Wigs: 'They Get to Be a Kid Again'
"It brings a little bit of happiness to kids facing hard times," Holly Christensen tells PEOPLE
A former cancer nurse in Alaska is helping pediatric cancer patients feel like “princes and princesses” with her beautiful handmade yarn wigs.
Holly Christensen, founder of The Magic Yarn Project, crafts soft-yarn wigs, embellished with flowers, snowflakes and ribbon, for children undergoing cancer treatments.
“If you think about it, it’s just a wig, just an item, but it really does make the biggest difference,” Christensen, 31, tells PEOPLE. “The smiles that come from wearing a magic princess wig, those moments are priceless and will stay with you forever. It brings a little bit of happiness to kids facing hard times.”
Since Christensen started The Magic Yarn Project in 2015, she has received thousands of requests for wigs from people all over the world.
“We’ve shipped hundreds of them to 42 different states and 11 countries. Our most popular is the Elsa from Frozen!” she says. “We also have many volunteers who pitch in to help crochet the wigs. Kids just get so excited when they receive them in the mail.”
Christensen, who estimates her organization has over 1,300 wigs backordered, has put in a request for her it to become a tax-exempt nonprofit. In the meantime, she relies on donations and volunteers to create the special headpieces.
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“We hold workshops where we instruct people on how to make them and we also have YouTube tutorials,” says Christensen. “Anyone can pitch in that wants to. We welcome all donations and contributions!”
Isabelle Heiman, a 6-year-old with cancer, says sporting her Elsa wig makes her feel like she’s living “in a fairy tale.”
“I put it on all the time!” Isabelle tells PEOPLE. “All of my friends are so jealous and when I wear it I really feel special, like a princess.”
After undergoing chemo treatments in the fall, the first grader, who lives in Hastings, Minnesota, wore her wig almost every day – keeping her hairless head warm during the colder months.
“It is so comfortable,” she says. “Other wigs are itchy and scratchy like hats, but my Elsa one doesn’t hurt my head.”
Isabelle’s mother, Sandra Heiman, says her daughter wore the long wig so much that “the tips turned brown” from dragging on the floor.
“She used to have long, long hair and losing it during chemo was really hard for her,” Heiman, 34, tells PEOPLE. “An actual wig was too uncomfortable, but this felt so great on her head and it brightens her mood whenever she wears it.”
The mother adds, “In the moments that she wears that wig, it was like her troubles went away.”
Christensen hopes The Magic Yarn Project will grow so that every pediatric cancer patient wanting a custom wig can get one.
“We want to expand our reach and be able to make wigs for everyone,” she says. “We’re doing a workshop in Seattle in a few weeks. We are growing all the time. We are trying to make wigs for everyone that asks!”
Christensen, who is always coming up with new designs, is currently working on a Captain Jack Sparrow prototype from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean.
“For most of these kids, their childhoods were robbed from them,” she says. “To see a child put on the wig and play make believe, it’s like they get to be a kid again.”