Around 8 every night, a local military housing neighborhood goes quiet as the sound of neighbors calling out into the distance can be heard.
The sound of the “Elsa Call” from Disney’s Frozen 2 bounces from front porch to front porch each evening at the Bethel off-base housing for Joint Base Langley-Eustis, thanks to the help of Jared Cary and Lexie Fontaine.
After being laid off from his job as a medical assistant for an orthopedic practice, Cary said he was looking for something to help spread a little bit of joy in his community. When he saw another woman do the Elsa Call online, he thought it might be a good idea to try in his own neighborhood.
“I decided I was just going to do it one night so I went outside and did the call,” he said. “I was just messing around and didn’t expect much, but I got at least 15 people calling back out to me.”
With a 2-year old daughter who loves the Frozen movies and a 6-year-old son, Cary said he wanted to make the call a nightly tradition.
“It’s all about keeping positivity, as parents it’s our job to keep them enjoying life as much as possible,” Cary said. “It’s our job to teach and show them, especially the really young ones, that there is still good in this world.”
Not too long after, Cary and his neighbor Fontaine connected, Fontaine started extending it by singing songs from Frozen each night after the call.
“I just thought, how cool would it be if we could have the siren call echoing through the sky and follow it with more music?” Fontaine said.
Each night now, Fontaine dresses as the character Elsa and either stands in her driveway or has her husband drive her around the neighborhood while she sings. When she does performances in her driveway, she said families will come and park their cars in the street and she can see the children bouncing up and down to the music.
“I think of the situation we’re in right now and how it’s terrifying and confusing for adults,” she said. “So I can’t imagine what that’s like for kids. Everything they know that’s consistent for them is just gone.”
The type of concert depends on the level of energy Fontaine has that day. Fontaine was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 16 and now, nearly a decade later, has other undiagnosed health issues that cause her to have severe fatigue.
But her health condition hasn’t stopped Fontaine from providing joy to children over the years.
“There’s a level of resistance I have developed because of the things I’ve gone through,” she said. “I realized, when I look back at my life there have been pivotal moments that boosted my spirits so when I come out here and [perform], it’s a reminder that you never know what someone is dealing with and what light you can bring to them.”
Fontaine said she was inspired by her friend, Kaylan Cuthbertson, who died from colorectal cancer in 2017. During Cuthbertson’s illness, Fontaine said they made a pact to go on as many adventures and spread as much joy as possible. She bought a variety of Disney princess costumes in 2015 and started singing to children in hospitals and she learned more than ever what it meant to be a support system for someone.
“Our motto was always ‘choose joy,’” she said. “Because unlike any other emotion, joy is not dependent on circumstance. It’s something already inside of you that you have to grow so when the world gets really dark, it’s still there for you.”
That’s the message Fontaine carries with her in her songs each night and in all work she does with children.
Most recently, Fontaine was working as a nanny until the coronavirus put a pause on her job. Now, in addition to dressing as Elsa, Fontaine also does live virtual story times and singalongs on Facebook.
Fontaine said she has been brainstorming some other ideas to reach out to children during this hard time, such as walk-by dance battles, but for now she’s just happy to reach out to her community through music.
“A big part of what has catapulted me to keep going to remind everyone that we are a community and we’re here for each other,” she said. “What we have during this time is each other.”
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