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Waterford sisters take on illness with tiaras

Waterford — Three teen sisters here are trying to make people facing illness feel like royalty.  

Taylor, Kayla and Emily Roy, 17, 15 and 14, respectively, have been collaborating on a project to make and distribute tiaras to people who are battling all types of illness. 

“Our mission is for the tiaras to promote confidence when dealing with medical providers or feeling icky or getting treatment,” Taylor said. “They’re also a reminder that you’re a warrior, you’re a princess, or prince, and you remember to practice acts of self-care and to treat yourself gently.”

The idea was influenced by personal experience. The Roy sisters’ mother, Natasha Roy, has a rare blood cancer called Polycythemia Vera. While battling the cancer, Natasha connected with others in similar situations via Facebook. A woman contacted her about “Tiara Tuesdays,” named as such since that was the day Natasha received injections for her cancer.

“It was part of this Facebook group of people with her rare blood disease. The women were talking about how they wear a tiara on their injection days to feel like a princess. We thought it was such a great idea, so my mom made one for her day, then my sisters and I made tiaras for ourselves,” Kayla said. “Three years ago I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House when I had a heart surgery, so we decided we wanted one of our first donations to be 50 tiaras to the house I stayed at.”

Ronald McDonald Houses serve as a home away from home for families with children fighting serious health issues.

The sisters said they’ve distributed about 100 tiaras since they began their project last year. Half of those went to the Ronald McDonald House in New Haven. They’ve also administered tiaras to community members. 

The girls recently started taking orders for tiaras. They have a presence in community forums and on their Facebook page – Treatment Tiara Day for Warrior Princesses – for people to request tiaras.

 “Sometimes we take orders, we ask people to contact us, and other times we create a tiara or a crown and we post it on a forum,” Taylor said. “We give it a name, or ask if someone has a personality that would fit this. That’s actually how a little girl got the Candy Land Crown. Her personality matched it so well, and when she got it, she was just jumping up and down with joy, it was so cute.” 

This sort of response is partly why Kayla particularly enjoys making tiaras for children.

“Giving them to kids is my favorite thing because some of them will get really, really excited,” she said. “A few weeks ago when we gave one to this little girl, she was literally jumping up and down. Some of them are more shy, but they’re all really happy to get them.” 

This wasn’t the only especially moving exchange Kayla remembered.

“We had one woman we donated to in honor of a friend who was in hospice, and when we got there she was already crying,” she said. “It really meant a lot to her.” 

Each tiara usually takes more than three hours to create. The finished products are free, and recipients pay for shipping. The siblings have been resourceful in reaching out for tiara-making materials online. One group that has been helpful is Buy Nothing Waterford CT, a place for people to give things away, where they’ve been able to find beads. They often don’t get the wire they need for their work, so they have to purchase it themselves. 

The sisters say reaching out for help has made this “into a community project.” 

“We break it down, and it’s a piece of jewelry with a history that someone loved, and we get to turn it into something that someone is going to actively wear,” Taylor said. “It’s going to give it a whole new life.” 

Kayla and Emily focus primarily on making the crowns. Taylor makes them too, but she handles work such as public relations and scheduling deliveries.  

The sisters have their favorite types of designs. Kayla favors the princess ones for little kids; Emily likes to make tiaras with circlets. The girls have expanded into making crowns origami-style. They note a “Warrior-Princess Scale” they use as a sort of spectrum for the feel of each piece of headwear. 

The Roy girls have helpers, including their parents, Natasha and Steven Roy. Steven does a lot of the driving in a now-conspicuous car.

“When we donate the tiaras we have our car decorated, we painted it as the warrior-princess mobile,” Taylor said. “My dad’s such a good sport, he drives it around for us, and he drives to work in the warrior-princess car, it’s great.” 

The sisters said Natasha helps with every aspect of the project, which, they say, wouldn’t have happened without her. They’ve expanded operations in order to meet demand, bringing aboard three boys of similar ages to do remote work making the tiaras and crowns. 

Kayla said the sisters’ time in elementary school at the Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London instilled a will in them to be “change agents.”

 “We took that message to heart, and we want to keep it going,” she added.

The sisters see this as a long-term project. Recipients of their tiaras live in Florida, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Their goal is to reach the remaining 46 states. 

s.spinella@theday.com

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