The year is 1969. The war in Vietnam rages, students protest and hippies rule, but one young Trinity student focuses on “hope, faith and goodness in others.” Louise Locker Hall ’71 didn’t realize it then, but her one small wish to make Christmas merry for one needy child was about to impact thousands of young lives.
“We had Christmases where we didn’t have very much because my dad was unemployed. My mom wrapped things up from around the house and put them under the tree,” Louise says.
When her dad died suddenly her freshman year, it had a tremendous impact on the student who would one day be known as “Elf Louise.” She decided to play Santa to a little girl.
“When in college, you have energy and gumption to act on your whims. I thought it would be neat to read letters that children wrote to Santa, find this little girl whomever she may be, and leave my childhood dolls on her doorstep, so that she would forever more believe her dreams could come true.”
Louise convinced postal workers to let her read the Santa mail. That first year, through the donations of total strangers,13 families and 65 children were blessed with toys, food and a Christmas tree.
It was 2 a.m. Christmas Eve, when she and classmate Wes Hoover (dressed as Santa) showed up on one family’s doorstep. The mother broke down crying, saying that they all went to bed at midnight, sad because there would be no Christmas. Santa and Elf Louise quietly handed them their Christmas tree and bag of toys, creating that first spark of magic.
This marks the 36th year for the non-profit Elf Louise project, which to date has delivered more than two million toys via a large volunteer circuit.
“Trinity was a wonderful place not only to learn, but to create ideas and make things happen. My professors instilled in me a belief that I could make a tremendous difference.”
Louise Locker Hall is a wife, mother (to 19-year-old Christopher), and a practicing psychotherapist, but will forever be known as “Elf Louise,” making special deliveries of Christmas magic to small faces who earnestly believe in the wonder of Santa.