Elves practice singing Christmas songs during ‘elf training’
at Boca Raton Community Center on a recent evening.
Claire Riccardi (left), Roberta Eberling, Loretta Lombardo and Fran Moran.
Photo by Tim Stepien
By Linda Haase
Who knew elves had to go to school?
The vivacious red- and green-clad elves who sing, dance and deliver presents to nursing homes, hospitals and day care centers in Broward and Palm Beach counties for the American Health Association know. They’ve graduated from the association’s slightly zany Elf School in Boca Raton, where they learned the rules: No smoking, chewing gum or drinking sugary or alcoholic beverages while on duty (I guess Santa looks the other way some of the time).
Be jolly, find — or make — a creative elf costume (oodles of bells and other jingly paraphernalia are strongly encouraged) and sing loudly and, if possible, on key. Then, there’s the backward wave, the special Elf Hug and the Bee Dance (which, ironically, looks like the erratic reaction of someone who encountered a bee hive).
OK, but what else is in store for these South Florida Santa’s helpers who, alas, have no trip planned to the North Pole?
“They dispense presents as directed and break up fights between patients who want more than one present,” says J. Robert Gordon, aka King Elf and president and CEO of the American Health Association. But, most importantly, they bestow oodles of joy and cheer. “For some of these people we visit this may be the only gift they get. They are so appreciative,” says Gordon, who has been teaching the do’s and don’ts of elfdom since he founded the school about five years ago.
The elves donate their time, but there are perks, including a pizza party, a wine tasting and a chance to be in Boca Raton’s holiday parade. Last year, 55 elves were on duty and Gordon expects that many — or more — this holiday season. After all, it takes an Elf Village to hand out the thousands of donated teddy bears, dolls and Beanie Babies to about 50 nursing homes, at least four hospitals and several day care centers.
Fran Moran (Elf Frisky) is up to the task. The Deerfield Beach resident is 93, but her daily exercise classes (everything from weight lifting to line dancing) keep her in shape for her elfing duties. Although this is her second year as an elf, she — and other past elves — must return to class to learn new songs from the elf songbook.
That‘s fine with Moran, whose enthusiasm is infectious.
“When I go to give the presents, I bring my tambourine and my kazoo and make it fun,” says Moran, who came to class in her colorful elf costume — complete with a pointy hat, green glittery elf shoes and a belt made from pop tops. “The best thing is seeing their reaction. You would think we were giving them a diamond ring.”
Roberta Eberling, a Boca Raton resident who has exchanged her regular routine to transform into Elf Cookie (“I love cookies,” she admits) for the past four years, says simply: “I like to elf. There’s nothing hard about it. All you have to do is be nice, congenial and sing the loudest and best you can.”
King Elf agrees, but adds this caveat: “Elfing is a privilege and not an automatic right.”
For more information on Elf School or to arrange a visit by the elves, call 361-9091 or e-mail email@example.com.
They are still accepting donations of teddy bears, dolls, stuffed animals and Beanie Babies for the Elf Campaign as well as the Orphans of War project.
Items can be brought to several locations including 1181 N. Rogers Circle, Suite 2 in Boca Raton and the Boca Raton Community Center, 150 Crawford Blvd.