At his daughter Ella’s fifth birthday party, Cameron Robertson remembers watching over the children and thinking how awesome it would be if Disney’s Princess Elsa suddenly walked through the door and began to sing “Let it Go.”
The thought was the beginning of a business model that, as predicted, has proven to be the life of the party. Through Cameron’s business venture, My Party Characters, children’s favorite characters are brought to life and can take part in a birthday party or event.
To do so, actors dress as a child’s chosen character and are hired for birthday parties and community events in southwest Michigan and Indiana. My Party Characters interact with the children through games, activities and singing.
“If a family is going to have a themed birthday party for their kid,” Cameron says, “they will make an appearance at the birthday party and kind of surprise the child. They might even sing if it is a princess.”
Cameron opened the business in June from his home in Stevensville. He described it as entertainment for children, with the goal of bringing to life a child’s most adored icons.
There are nearly 20 different characters available for selection, including princesses, superheroes and seasonal characters, like Santa Claus, too. Cameron will also take character requests that are not listed. This type of request needs to be made at least one month in advance, and more than one character can be booked for a party.
Because the businesses is unique to in the Michiana area, Cameron says from the start he felt like it could add something to the region.
“There were not a lot in the area,” Cameron says. “I think we needed it here.”
The community seems to agree. Already, the business has booked a number of gigs and has since seen My Party Characters evolve from serving birthday parties to taking part in community events and parades.
“It’s kind of two-sided, I guess,” Robertson says. “It started out as birthday parties. That was kind of the plan, but it has been taking off a lot with different events that people have been reaching out to me for.”
Youth can also learn some art skills during “Painting with a Princess” event, where the costumed character leads the children through an art lesson to create a painting.
As a fourth-grade teacher at EP Clarke Elementary School in St. Joseph, Michigan, Cameron is no stranger to finding new ways to engage children in everyday activities. With significant free time during the summer, he said it felt like an ideal time to launch his business.
He also saw an opportunity to give high school and college students pursuing theater or acting careers experience. Cameron hired students seeking careers in the industry and currently has five employees who dress up and perform for the business.
“I wanted to give some high school kids some jobs,” Robertson said. “I thought, ‘how awesome would it be for theater kids or kids in choir or dance?’ So, that was kind of my criteria for hiring.”
When children see their favorite superhero or idol walk through the door, the reaction is one parents want to have the camera ready for.
“The first one we did … we walked up with Spiderman and Superman, and the kids’ jaws dropped,” Robertson said. “They could not believe it. ‘Are they really here at my birthday party?’”
With this kind of impression, Robertson said My Party Characters can help to make a party or event memorable to a child.
Photos by Emily Sobecki