By Elizabeth Lowe
In May 2009, a few months after deciding to start a party-planning business catering to girls, Joanne Gallion sat on a curb at Walt Disney World in Orlando and watched girls dressed in princess costumes walk by.
Then it hit her.
“What I heard (from God) was that girls whose parents could afford parties weren’t the girls who needed the parties,” said Gallion, who attends Mass at St. Ignatius, Hickory, and Church of the Nativity in Timonium.
Gallion, a Mercy High School alumna and Bel Air resident, immediately changed the focus of the organization she organized, My Precious Princess Inc.
“ ‘My’ referred to God,” said Gallion, 58. “They’re God’s precious princesses. There was no question. God has been leading me and directing me and I see his signposts.”
Through the “God-centered” organization, Gallion aims to serve abused and disadvantaged girls ages 7-18 in Harford County, ones who “never could afford to dress up as a princess.”
The mother of three adult children, Gallion hopes to hold events twice a month in Harford County with activities that focus on teambuilding, bolstering the girls’ self-esteem and “make them feel special.”
Gallion, who is applying for nonprofit status, said God “put in my heart this burden for abused girls.”
That cause has taken her halfway around the world, literally, as earlier this year, she “started to feel a call from God to maybe go on a mission (trip).” After Googling “sexually abused girls,” she located a home in the Philippines for girls who have been sexually abused or exploited.
In May 2012, Gallion quit her job as a nurse, then spent two months this summer in the Philippines. She volunteered through Visayans, a nonprofit, at a home for about 40 girls, ages 7-17, who had been abused.
“God was just everywhere in the Philippines,” Gallion said. “This whole trip was for God. It was for me to take God to these girls, but these girls ended up giving God to me, too.”
During her time in the Philippines, Gallion and another American volunteer organized a version of the Summer Olympics for the girls.
For seven days, the girls split into four teams and participated in games that included blowing a cotton ball across the floor and beach ball volleyball. They also held a closing ceremony.
“They loved playing the games, they love team sports,” Gallion said. “They had the best time.”
Gallion said that other than the birth of her children, her mission to the Philippines was “the greatest experience that I’ve ever been through. It was very clear to me I was being led by the Holy Spirit.”
The trip cost her about $8,000 and nearly drained her savings account. Currently unemployed, Gallion is looking for a job and focusing on My Precious Princess Inc.
She will staff a booth at the Mercy High School Mother’s Club vendor shopping event, Nov. 29 at the Baltimore school. Gallion’s booth will also feature information about her trip to the Philippines and craft items the Philippine girls made, including friendship bracelets and decorated pens. All proceeds will benefit My Precious Princess Inc. Check out the website here.
Copyright (c) Sept. 20, 2012 CatholicReview.org