Santa’s Elves al­ready pre­par­ing for sea­son

Lo­cal charity brings hol­i­day to fam­i­lies in need

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By NI­COLE ROD­MAN nrod­man@ches­pub.com

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.

PHOTO BY NI­COLE ROD­MAN

Tom Ham­macher (as Santa) of Santa’s Elves has been serv­ing the com­mu­nity through his Christ­mas charity for al­most 20 years.

PHOTOS BY NI­COLE ROD­MAN

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.

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