Cheeky elves relatable to youngsters with life-threatening conditions will be spreading festive cheer at a children’s hospice this Christmas.
Santa’s trusty friends will be putting smiles on faces throughout their stay at The Treehouse – the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice (EACH) base in Ipswich.
The disobedient duo are extra special because they are custom-made to be relatable to youngsters receiving care and support.
One has a tracheostomy which, on a child, would suggest breathing or secretion problems.
It also has a nasogastric tube, for feeding. The other has a nasal cannular for oxygen.
EACH Clinical Nurse Specialist Rachel van den Brink-Budgen said: “I’m sure lots of families will love them.
“The idea is that these elves are inclusive and children will relate to them in a way they might not otherwise.
“They will be able to see elves that look the same as them or appear to have been through something similar. It’s very special.
“I suspect a lot of the children that come to us for respite care will have an elf at home. They might miss them if they’re here for two or three nights and this will hopefully help.
“It’s a lovely touch and something fun for the staff, too.
“I sent an email saying ‘guess who’s back’, because we had elves here last year, and had some great responses.
“People were saying ‘this is brilliant’ and ‘I can’t wait’. Hopefully, everyone will get involved.
“Our new additions look quite mischievous so I feel there will be some antics, but I also think they might do some kind things, too.”
The elves were donated by Fiona Allan, who runs an online business called Crafty Fiona.
She wanted to donate 40 elves to hospitals and hospices and her Facebook post was spotted by Laurene Morrow, whose five-year-old daughter, Freya Reid, receives care and support at The Treehouse.
“Fiona produces custom toys with medical devices like their owners,” added Rachel.
“She makes bespoke teddies with things like an oxygen cannular, feeding tubes, hearing aids, eye patches and diabetic equipment.
“After swapping messages with her, two of her elves have now turned up at The Treehouse.
“They’re free of charge as a festive gift and we’re very grateful.”
Freya, from Colchester, has Spinal Muscular Atrophy with Respiratory Distress (SMARD).
She is vented via a tracheotomy, fed through a feeding tube and uses a wheelchair to get around.
Mum Laurene said: “We speak to hospice staff on a weekly basis and they’re fabulous, helping me with any issues I may have.
“We use the respite every six months or so, sometimes more depending on availability at The Treehouse.
“As soon as I saw the elves online we thought how amazing and inclusive they were.
“Freya is at an age where she notices how different she is from her schoolfriends.
“She often wishes she looked the same but when I showed her the elves she was so pleased and excited that they looked like her.”
EACH Play Specialist Hailey Allen expects the elves to be a hit with children like Freya.
She said: “It’s a lovely thought and we’ve got some children here who will adore them.
“Last year, staff members took our elves home and shared pictures of them getting up to mischievous things.
“Elf on the Shelf is everywhere and it’s nice to have it here, too. It gives us an opportunity to bring elves into the children’s world, so they feel included.
“It gets everyone involved and is a lot of fun, making everyone happy.”