(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — There are no Dancers or Prancers or Comets or Vixens, no partridges in a pear tree or even nutcrackers dancing when you’re sick in the hospital at Christmastime.
For the young patients at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., however, there is a Betsy Bojangles, an Elfvis, a Bonnie and a Jingle Bell Jimmy in their midst.
They are not nurses or strangely-named doctors but Elves on the Shelf who have come to the well-known children’s hospital to spread Christmas cheer.
The Elf on the Shelf is, of course, a Christmas tradition born from one Georgia family’s annual ritual: The Elf came from the North Pole, appeared in a different spot each day and then flew home to the North Pole nightly to report back to Santa. It’s now part of millions of families’ Christmas each year around the world.
When Linda Hill, a longtime volunteer at Le Bonheur, had the idea to use the Elf to help spread Christmas cheer in the hospital, the Marietta, Ga., company that sells the $29.95 Elves and accompanying book, jumped at the opportunity.
“We are inspired by the work they do with children,” a spokesperson for the family-owned company told ABC News. “We were delighted to be able to partner with them. The people who work with sick children are nearest and dearest to our hearts.”
And just like that, in a bit of Christmas magic, last week 15 Elves — one for each of the hospital’s 12 floors plus one for the family house, the same-day surgery facility and the hospital as a whole — arrived with Elf dust from the North Pole.
Ever since, the Elves’ daily arrival from the North Pole, always in a different location on each floor, has been captivating patients like Kylie, a five-year-old in the hospital for a neurological operation.
“I met her as she was getting ready to go in for a surgical procedure, and she would have nothing to do with me,” Jessica Kellough, one of the hospital’s child life specialists, told ABC News. “When I mentioned that our Elf had arrived that morning, she turned and looked at me and her eyes got really big and [it was the] first time I got a response from her. The only thing she wanted to do or talk about was finding the Elf.”
After surgery, according to Kellough, Kylie was placed on bed rest so her nurse brought the Elf magic to her in the form of a letter the Elf sent to her from the North Pole. From then on, Kylie insisted the letter lay next to her always in bed.
“It’s a huge motivator for her and it got her mind off her surgery,” Kellough said, noting the nurses and therapists are also using the Elves with patients who are being rehabilitated, to get them up and moving in search of the Elves around the hospital.
“They all have them at home so they’re excited to know that the Elves haven’t forgotten them now that they’re at the hospital,” she said.
Elf on the Shelf has partnered with children’s hospitals in the past, according to the company spokesman, but this is the first time the Elves have made their way from the North Pole to Le Bonheur.
Le Bonheur, which treats nearly 250,000 kids from across the country with all different ailments every year, is known for its innovative practices to keep patients stimulated — earlier this year the building’s window washers dressed as real-life superheroes — and says they hope, like so many families, to make the Elf on the Shelf one of the hospital’s annual traditions.
“Sometimes when you’re at the hospital, especially around Christmas, some of the magic seems lost,” Kellough said. “This year something seems different. Elf has brought back some of that magic this year. It’s just been inspiring to see the power the Elf has had here.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Michael H. O'Donnell, Idaho State Journal
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com
Tamara Vaifanua, KSTU
Carina Storrs Special to CNN