Benton girls basketball's Maddy Ryan says playing Ariel at birthday parties 'my favorite thing to do'
When Maddy Ryan isn’t a lockdown defender for the Benton girls basketball team, she’s breaking hearts when she leaves children’s birthday parties in Northwest Louisiana.
That’s because Ryan has parlayed her red hair into a job performing as Ariel, the fictional princess in Disney’s animated film, "The Little Mermaid," for Cast My Party. She was contacted by the owner of the business on Instagram about two years ago, received an interview and was working two weeks later.
“I love the kids. Being Ariel is probably my favorite thing to do,” said Ryan. “I love how much they believe that I am the real Ariel. It’s the best job ever.”
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The junior is the daughter of former MLB pitcher B.J. Ryan.
Benton has advanced to three consecutive state title games and won the 2020 LHSAA Class 5A girls state championship. The school is 18-9 on the season playing in a district that has provided the past three state champions.
“Maddy is a fun, energetic teammate who always brings enthusiasm to practice and games,” Benton coach Mary Ward said. “One of her biggest strengths is her confidence. She believes she can do anything you ask of her whether it’s guarding the opponent’s best player, getting rebounds, driving to the ball or shooting outside.”
She gets a lot of personal fulfillment out of making kids smile when she walks into a room as Ariel.
“At a party one time a little boy told his mom to come tell me that he wanted to marry me,” Ryan said. “I also had a little girl tell me that she wanted to marry Prince Eric (Ariel’s husband). Funny things happen at almost every party.”
And when it comes time for Ariel to depart, things can get emotional.
“Some cry and say how much they will miss me, and some are already thinking about the next time I’m coming,” Ryan said. “Overall, every reaction is so, so sweet.”
Jimmy Watson covers Shreveport-Bossier area sports. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @JimmyWatson6.