Fourteen years ago, Elizabeth Elliot was inspired by a little girl’s reaction to the gift of a Christmas ornament.
“Santa brings me a new ornament every year,” explained Elizabeth. “I was visiting a friend and her daughter, who had leukemia. I showed her the Barbie ornament Santa had given me, and the joy it brought her was transformational. She went from a little girl fighting cancer to a child filled with hope. I was filled with hope too.”
The next year, Elizabeth started collecting ornaments and decided to give them to patients at a local hospital.
“That’s how HOPE Ornaments began – with a little girl and a lot of hope. And it just took off from there.”
Then, 11 years ago, Elizabeth got sick and became disabled.
“For a time, I lost hope. Things were bad. But my family and friends encouraged me to keep going – with my own journey as well as with HOPE Ornaments. So, I went room to room in my wheelchair giving out ornaments.”
Now Elizabeth and her volunteers collect, wrap and deliver about 8,000 ornaments each holiday season to 39 hospitals and assisted living centers in Illinois. They’re donated by people from all 50 states and even from other countries. She recently dropped off hundreds of ornaments to six Advocate Health Care medical centers.
“One of my favorite stories is from a dialysis patient who was in her 90s,” she recalled. “Someone had donated a gold and turquoise ornament of a diner. When the woman chose that ornament, she began to cry. It reminded her of her first date with her late husband at a diner seven decades ago.”
The variety of ornaments is as diverse as the people who donate them. Elizabeth gets everything from snowmen and Santas to Ghostbusters, avocados and tacos.
“They’re so different and unique. Even though I collect 8,000 ornaments a year, I still see new ones.”
And Elizabeth would like to see that number grow – so she can someday deliver ornaments to all patients in the state.
“In Illinois alone, more than 32,000 people spend the holidays in the hospital each year,” she said. “When you can’t be home, one simple ornament can bring memories of joy and love. I really believe these gifts can make people stronger.”
How you can help
There are many ways to give back and support patients, families and team members all year long. To learn more, click here.
To support HOPE Ornaments, send ornaments and donations to:
562 2nd Street
Grayslake, IL 60030