Allyson Ell and her children are getting in the holiday spirit.
“Christmas is one of our favorite times of the year,” said Ell, a full-time Island Health worker who loves photography.
And one Ell family tradition that makes every year special for them is finding ways to give back.
“My grandmother used to always say, ‘everybody should get something for Christmas,'” said Ell.
Around this time each year, the Ells normally head to the mall for their annual photo with Santa, followed by shopping for toys that would be placed in their Christmas hampers, which would be donated to other children in need.
But like many families, the Ell’s are having to adapt due to COVID-19.
“This year we knew that it was going to be a little bit harder, there would be no Santa photo at the mall and trying to take the kids out to the mall to buy gifts from people didn’t feel safe for us,” said Ell.
So, the mother of three got creative.
After taking inspiration from a photographer friend’s Pinterest post, Ell decided to put her photoshop skills to the test.
“I’d seen other photographer friends from other areas do composite photos,” said Ell. “So I decided to grab a template and tried the same thing with my kids and my kids really loved the idea that they got a Santa photo.”
Ell then posted her ‘Santa photo project’ on social media, offering her services to friends and family by donation. And word traveled fast.
“Friends have told friends who’ve told friends who’ve told relatives, so we’ve done some across Canada and some in the United States as well,” she said. “I get a few requests every day from people I don’t know, but I’m happy to do it because it’s a good cause and it’s bringing a little bit of joy to other people.”
And with the funds raised from the photos, Ell then gets her children involved to help with the online toy shopping spree.
“Well, when we go online and when we purchase a toy, it’s sent to Santa to deliver,” said her 10-year-old son, Liam. “So this helps Santa get the toys to people.”
All of the toys purchased are given to local families in need.
“It just feels good to know that we can still give back just in a different way this year,” said Ell.
Those interested in Ell’s Santa photo project can e-mail Allyson Ell at [email protected].