South Charlotte

Girls' idea of glamour is to bring smiles to ill kids

They come armed with lipstick, scented lotions and a rainbow palette of nail polish.

They don hot-pink T-shirts over white long-sleeved shirts and tote black makeup cases.

They call themselves the "Glamour Girls," and their mission is to bring cheer to chronically ill children and their siblings.

The group was founded in 2008 by a handful of south Charlotte teens - Elleana Goldman of Ardrey Kell High, Meredith Gainer of Charlotte Latin and Aubrey Berry of Charlotte Christian. They wanted to brighten the often-gloomy days of young hospitalized patients.

What better way than to give a good pampering?

So the trio of traveling makeup artists and manicurists started volunteering once every few weeks at Presbyterian Hemby Children's Hospital.

They'd gather with their cases of nail polish, eye shadow, lipstick, blush and temporary tattoos.

Glamour Girls - for "Giving Love Affirming Many OURway" - was inspired, in part, by a public-service program from Canada: the "Look Good ... Feel Better" program for women with cancer.

When the founders graduated from high school, they passed the torch to Providence High junior Melanie Rosen, who already was a volunteer at Carolinas Medical Center.

Rosen recruited her friends; sophomore Madison Madrazo and junior Alexa Gitlitz, both from Providence High, and junior Katie Hood of South Mecklenburg High.

About once a month, they stop by the Hemby Children's Hospital with their wares. They give the patients, from 4 years old to 16, some options.

"What's your favorite color?" they'll ask. The sparkly glitter and nail polish are always a hit, Rosen said.

The girls often deal with situations other stylists wouldn't encounter.

They sometimes must wear masks to keep areas as germ-free as possible for a patient. They once attended a young girl who had a tangle of cords attaching to her finger to a heart monitor. The girls skipped that finger as they were painting her nails, but the patient wanted the full manicure so badly that she asked the nurse to remove the cords for a few seconds.

"I think they're excited to see someone other than doctors," said Gitlitz, 16. For her, the sessions offer mutual satisfaction: "I like seeing their smiles and making their day for a couple minutes," she said.

Another time, they were making their rounds when "this beautiful girl came up and said, 'I'd like my nails done.' " recalls Rosen.

Back in her room, the girl proudly showed them a scrapbook she'd made of a family trip to the beach.

"Hearing her story, seeing her scrapbook, and knowing we could go in there and help just a bit ... it's really nice," Rosen said.

Sometimes even the male patients want some Glamour Girls action; that's why - mixed in the pile of temporary tattoos of flowers and cute animals - there's also a collection of masculine tattoos, including Batman, sports balls and a skull and crossbones.

The one thing they usually don't discuss is the patient's condition. The glam session is supposed to relieve some stress - even if only for a few minutes.

In February, the girls will expand their pamper sessions to the 8-month-old Ronald McDonald House on Morehead Street, where families of hospital patients stay. Siblings of patients deserve some TLC, too, the Glamour Girls say.

Ronald McDonald House is a "home away from home ... and we're also a distraction," said Community Outreach Coordinator Ari Harris. "Adding something a little bit sparkly and a little bit fun is a good thing."

Ronald McDonald House usually has to seek volunteers, said Harris, so she was thrilled when the girls approached her.

The Glamour Girls say they would like to continue expanding, but to do so, they'll need more volunteers.