Santa’s Elves already preparing for season
Local charity brings holiday to families in need
We may be into the dog days of summer, but for Santa’s Elves founder Tom Hammacher, it’s always Christmas.
All year round, Dundalk
Farms resident Hammacher spearheads his charity from the comfort of his Christmas-themed home office.
Now in his 19th year, Hammacher spends the months leading up to Christmas collecting funds and donating toys to distribute to children in need.
For Hammacher, it is his chance to spread a bit of Christmas cheer — cheer that he carries with him all year long.
“I live and die for Christmas Day,” he explained.
In an interview with the Eagle last week, Hammacher reflected on his efforts, which started with one young person nearly 20 years ago.
At that time, Hammacher was approached by a friend seeking help bringing Christmas to a young family member suffering from cancer. Hammacher, then working at the North Point Plaza Flea Market, solicited help from market vendors. The result — a truck full of toys for the young patient.
The next year, in 1999, Hammacher decided to formalize his efforts. That first year, under the name Miracle on 46th Street (site of his former home), he set a goal to help 10 families. He provided Christmas for 17 families that first year.
Last year, Hammacher provided Christmas — including toys and, for some, dinner and a tree — for 85 families (225 children). This year, his goal is to assist 200 families.
For Hammacher, the hard work is well worth the effort.
“I have 225 kids who opened their eyes [on Christmas morning], and their eyes were as big as golf balls looking at the presents they got from Santa’s Elves,” he said.
He added, “I’m going to do this as long as God’s willing to let me do this — I can’t stop.”
If you thought planning one Christmas is exhausting, planning Christmas for hundreds of children is truly a year-round undertaking.
As soon as the holidays are over, Hammacher begins planning his crab feast — Santa’s Elves’ main fundraiser — for the next year.
Following that fundraiser, Hammacher kicks into high gear, preparing his sleigh, setting up appearances and collecting donations.
He visits with elementary school counselors and accepts applications in order to compile a list of families need.
Each child composes a wish list; Hammacher and his elves do their best to provide items from those lists.
With these lists in hand, the elves set to work shopping and sorting toys (usually at least eight per child), meals and trees for each family. It all culminates with the distribution of the goods to the families one week before Christmas.
One element that sets Hammacher’s effort apart is his life-size Santa sleigh. He built his first sleigh in 1999. His current sleigh includes a Nativity scene, projector lights and the words “Santa Claus” in red lighted letters.
During the off-season, the 22-foot sleigh is stored in Pennsylvania.
Throughout the Christmas season, Hammacher uses the sleigh to raise awareness and funds to support his efforts.
Dressed as Santa himself, Hammacher plans to hit several locations this Christmas season, bringing joy to kids and raising money to provide Christmas to children who are not as fortunate.
Of course, Hammacher doesn’t do it all alone. He credits his family, friends, local businesses and oth- ers with aiding his efforts throughout the year.
“I have met some of the nicest people in the world doing this,” he explained.
In addition to his kids and wife, he recognized James High, organizer of the Middle River Lighted Boat Parade. High has arranged to donate toys collected as part of the recent Middle River Christmas in July Toy Run.
He also acknowledged sponsors such as Home Depot, which will donate boxes and projectors, as well as Big Lots, which has supported Hammacher’s efforts for many years.
For now, Hammacher is focused on putting the finishing touches on the Santa’s Elves fundraiser crab feast on Sept. 23.
Hammacher (decked out as Santa, sleigh in tow) will make several appearances throughout the Christmas season, including a day- long event at Big Lots on Merritt Boulevard on Black Friday, Nov. 24.
He will appear at Hampden’s 34th Street Christmas light display on Saturdays, Dec. 2 and 9, from 6 to 10 p.m. and at Smokin’ Joe’s on Merritt Avenue on Friday, Dec. 15, from 5 to 10 p.m.
Santa’s Elves will also have cash and toy donation barrels at 12 locations across the area, including Big Lots. Other locations will be announced.
For more information, visit http://santaselvesdmd.org.
Tom Hammacher (as Santa) of Santa’s Elves has been serving the community through his Christmas charity for almost 20 years.
Santa (Tom Hammacher) joined Phillip’s Inn owner Audrey Garniss (front, in green), and a variety of superheroes, during a Christmas party at Phillip’s Inn in 2015. The celebration benefited Santa’s Elves.
Santa’s Elves founder Tom Hammacher coordinates his charity from his Christmas-themed home office.