Sure, the dancing makes for great fun. So, too, do the crafts, food and a playful bubble machine.

But the growing success of Foundation For Youth’s annual Princess Ball rests in a simple magic that Columbus’ 8-year- old Katie London aptly can summarize with little prodding. She has attended for five years.

“What I like best about it,” she said, “is just that kids can spend time with their dads and bond with them.”

The 10th such opportunity for such daddy-date togetherness, or father-figure unity, unfolds from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 9 at Foundation For Youth, 405 Hope Ave. in Columbus. About 280 children attended last year — a jump from the inaugural year that attracted 30 youngsters plus dads. About 420 princesses attended in 2011.

Story continues below gallery

Of course, some of the couples consist of uncle-nieces or other pairings. Founder and former Columbus resident Patti Owens Bohnsack launched the event as a way to help young girls feel special and boost self-esteem.

Jennifer Shaver, the foundation’s community health and fitness director known for leading programs that strengthen young girls’ identity, loves noting the expanding popularity of the ball.

“One of the things that I can easily see in it is that it’s a good opportunity for a father or a father figure to show a girl the standard of just how you should be treated as a lady,” Shaver said. “And a lot of these fathers don’t always easily get a chance for one-on-one time like this.

“And the girls know this night is all about them.”

Shaver said some people in the past have bought tickets as Christmas stocking stuffers for their little girls.

Of course, some of the younger attendees sometimes spend more time chasing balloons or bubbles than they do dancing. Kate London acknowledged that she herself grew animated with the bubbles.

Yet, dancing was important enough two years ago that father Tony London finished third in the Chicken Dance to close the night with a nice feather in his cap.

“But I don’t mean to brag,” Dad said.

Organizers said moms and other female figures in the girls’ lives often take the youngsters shopping for a special outfit for the night. That makes sense, especially since tunes at past balls have included Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight.”

“I’ll let you in on a little secret,” Tony London said. “They say this event is for the girls, but it’s really for the dads.

“It just the best time to see your daughter all dressed up, and a big smile on her face.”

Wife Amy London capitalizes on the night to take son Charlie on a mother-son night for pizza in Columbus. So everyone gets bonding time.

Foundation For Youth Executive Director Chuck Kime has attended for years for daughter Katie — first when she was a preschooler and elementary school student and now with her as a teen volunteer. That’s especially significant since organizers still would like more volunteers at the gathering.

“The Princess Ball is one of the best things we do at FFY,” Kime said. “I still can picture Katie as a tiny little girl in a blue velvet dress.”

The duo usually rounded out that night with a stop for ice cream “to kind of make it a date so she would know what that feels like,” Kime said. “That’s very important stuff.”

A ball at the ball

What: 10th Annual Foundation For Youth Princess Ball, for dads and daughters ages 2 and older. Featuring music, dancing, crafts, food, a 5-by-7 photo, and moms invited to line the red carpet between 5 and 6 p.m.

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 9.

Where: Foundation For Youth, 405 Hope Ave., Columbus.

Tickets: $25 per couple, plus $10 for each additional princess.

Information: 812-348-4558 or foundationforyouth.com.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.