MERRILLVILLE — Every parent can think their daughter is a princess, and on Sunday these little girls looked the part.
Little princesses in dresses and tiaras, inspired by Disney movies, and their parents filled the Croatian Center with the Princess and Prince’s Ball, benefiting the PAD Foundation, which supports animal shelters.
PAD stands for Peter and Adam Del Rio-Bathurst, two young boys who died in 2016 and 2017. Their mother, Elizabeth Bathurst, of Portage, founded PAD for her sons, who were animal lovers.
The foundation financially assists animal shelters throughout northwest Indiana. Recipients include no-kill, non-profit, and volunteer-run shelters for animals in need.
An adult gala was held the night before, said Jennifer Pozdzal, who is involved with PAD.
“A lot of kids wanted to have something for themselves,” Pozdzal said, “so we came up with that.”
The Disney-themed afternoon featured girls dressed as Disney Princesses and other characters. The program included a royal court of older girls dressed as characters from “Snow White”, “Mulan”, “Frozen”, “Pocahontas”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Aladdin”, “Rapunzel” and ” The beauty and the Beast “. “
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“I love that mothers can bring their daughters and help out a little, raising money for animal rescues,” Pozdzal said. “We are also able to teach children something about philanthropy. They learn the importance of being productive citizens.
After a magic show by Nate “le Grand” Lacny, guests were introduced with the royal court, followed by lunch and dessert from a table of Disney-inspired treats by Nicole Babbitt. Working from home, the Crown Point woman baked donuts, cupcakes, gelatin, horse-drawn carriage cookies and other cookies in the shape of frog princesses.
“It’s just a hobby for me, and I love giving back to the community,” Babbitt said. “I love seeing the kids excited and happy to be here.”
Bathurst said: “I love it. I’m so glad we have a lot of kids here.
She added that after her sons died, “I wanted something to honor the boys. As the director of Indiana Youth Ballet, it seemed like a good fit.
PAD has previously raised funds for Lakeshore PAWS and Kittens for Keeps. This year’s recipients are Treasured Friends Animal Rescue and Feline Community Network.
Treasured Friends, based in the Highlands, have been serving homeless and unwanted animals for over 30 years. The organization provides care based on the animal’s needs.
Feline Community Network is a rescue and rehabilitation center for cats located in Hobart. The group works with other organizations to promote the cat-human bond.
PAD board member Michael Willis told the audience. “Your presence enriches this day, lifts the memories of Peter and Adam, and shows kindness to animals throughout Northwest Indiana.”
Meanwhile, Ashley Tarin, from Valparaiso, and her daughter Lexi, 9, were enjoying their ‘mother-daughter time’, while her sons were with their father.
Tarin commented, “I love seeing all the little princesses, and it’s something a little different.”
Rachel Saller, from Highland, brought her daughter Josie, 4, dressed as Cinderella. PAD Board Member Judy Katz of Crown Point invited them.
“I love seeing all the little kids having fun,” Katz said. “Plus, it helps rescue groups.”
Erica Yakovetz, of Merrillville, had lunch with her daughter Aria, 6, and her new stuffed elephant.
“The atmosphere is really impressive,” Yakovetz said. “They do a great job.”
Rachel Smith, from Valparaiso, came with her daughters Charlotte, 6, and Olivia, 3, both dressed as princesses. “We’re going to Disney World in March,” the mom said, “so we thought it would be fun to get into the spirit.”
PHOTOS: Disney-themed event raises money for animal shelters