Magic filled the air Friday night at the Horizon Convention Center in downtown Muncie. The Ball State gymnastics team hosted its fifth annual Royal Princess Ball. Kids in kindergarten to seventh grade were invited to dance the night away with some gymnastics “royalty.”
“It’s our fundraising event, but it is a fun way to get involved with the community,” head coach Joanna Saleem said. “It’s a great family event where little kids get to come in and interact with the team. The team gets really excited too because they get to dress up as princesses as well.”
One of the things that makes this program unique is that it is 100 percent run by members of the gymnastics team. From running the craft tables to taking pictures with kids, Ball State gymnastics does it all.
“The team really does everything,” Saleem said. “They’re running the games and activities, dressed up as different princesses and interacting with our little guests. It’s a lot that they take on, but at this point we have it organized so it doesn’t take too much time. They really are involved in all of the process.”
This event not only acts as a fun family activity for a Friday night, but it breaks down the wall between athletes and the fans. The event allows the team to have one-on-one interactions with some of their biggest supporters.
“They come and sit for hours to watch us compete, so the least we can do for them, after the meets, is to say hello and talk to them during our poster signings,” senior Sarah Ebeyer said. "But the ball is a way to directly relate to them and have a fun experience with them. It also help us build our presence not just here at Ball State, but in the Muncie community."
The community has also appreciated the effort that the team has made to create a connection. Amanda Fry, who attended the dance with her two daughters, said she appreciates how the team invites all the area's young gymnasts to the dance and have not excluded themselves to just one program. The sense of unity really excites her.
The gymnastics team wasn’t the only community from Ball State represented. Ed Krzemienski, who is a history professor at Ball State, was in attendance with his wife and daughter. Krzemienski said the team “bent over backwards” to accommodate his daughter with special needs.
“This event is phenomenal,” Kryzemienski said. “The team is so good with the kids and they do so much to make my daughter, feel comfortable. It really has been an awesome experience for her.”
While there is a lot going on for the gymnasts during the night, Ebeyer said it all pays off to see the kids having a great time.
“You get to see all these little kids have a dream and passion for gymnastics and they think it’s the biggest deal in the world that they get to spend time with us,” Ebeyer said. “It helps bring us back to the point of, we’re here because we were once that little girl who had that dream of doing gymnastics at this level.”
As the clock struck 8 p.m. and the princesses returned to their palaces, there was a positive vibe in the air. Giggling 6-year-old Lidia Fry said her favorite part of the event was obvious.
“Everything,” she said.