Hillsborough resident Mike Newman will make a second run as the elf on Dec. 21, heading out onto Hillsborough streets to highlight the Hillsborough-based nonprofit, Steps Together.
"It really started as something to do for my kids," he said. "They are really into the Elf of the Shelf and it's a pretty simple costume to put together, so one day last December we decided to give it a go."
Newman said Donna Parlin, a family friend, helped with the costume by completing the collar—which inspired him to head outside in the costume last year for the first time.
"Families travel for miles to see Santa—what if we flipped it a bit and let our Elf travel to the families?" he said.
His run last year was aimed at gaining more "likes" for the Steps Together Facebook page, and he said he was a bit nervous when he first stepped outside.
But when his neighbor, who was working outside in his yard, gave him a smile and a wave, Newman said he was ready.
"The sight of the Elf on the Shelf running down the road made everyone who saw me that day revert their attention, if just for second from whatever mode they were in and smile," he said. "It is truly a wonderful feeling to make people smile—I could literally feel the joy I was creating along the way.
"So now I'm hooked and this year the route it larger, much more advertised and I can't wait to get our their and strut my Elf stuff," he said.
He said his goal is to get people "talking about the Elf," and ultimately, about Steps Together.
"If a beneficiary receives a donation from someone who learns their story because of my run or even a person who is now part of their prayer chain, every single step was worth it," he said. "And should life take an unavoidable change for someone in the future, they may learn that Steps Together is there to help them."
Steps Together was formed by Hillsborough residents who wanted to create an ongoing way to raise funds for area families facing critical medical situations. The group has been working to help the families of children diagnosed with cancer—including toddler Billy Biviano, of Millstone, as well as other local nonprofits groups, including the local anti-suicide project BoroSafe.
Newman's plan this year is to run about 10 miles, starting at Woods Road at 11 a.m. and running to Amsterdam Road, past the school to Powell Drive, then Vliet; take Woods Road to Fox Chase; through the neighborhoods to Willow Road; up to Amwell, then left to North Willow Road, to Hamilton Road. He'll take Old Somerville Road to Route 206 and continue to the Applebee's—where the Elf will disappear (hopefully, not for the whole year).
You can keep up with his project on the "Elf on the Shelf Run for Awareness" Facebook page, or on the Steps Together website.