Giving elves: Newport Masons, Eastern Star volunteers surprise kids at hospital
The "Elwell Elves" came bearing gifts to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital on Dec. 10. Dolls, toys and games were handed out by volunteers from Newport Masonic Lodge 118 and Queen Esther Chapter 26 of the Order of the Eastern Star. They bought the items earlier this month as part of their annual Santa Project, which is funded by donations from individuals and businesses. This year, they also purchased a PlayStation system and games that hospital staff can lend out to patients.
The Santa Project was founded in 2005 after Jeff Elwell of Cottage Grove spent 18 months receiving treatment for leukemia. Moved by the plight of the boys and girls in the oncology ward, he determined to brighten their holiday by buying Christmas gifts for them. He sought help from his father and Masonic Lodge member Mike Elwell to play Santa Claus and help to pass out the gifts. Jeff Elwell died in 2006. His father carried on his work until his death in 2013. His son, Mike Elwell (center, yellow pants) carries on the legacy of his father and brother.