The mother of a little girl who suffers from a rare genetic disease has helped her child to feel more accepted in the world by giving her Elf on the Shelf the same disability as her – complete with a wheelchair and a feeding tube.
Samantha Lackey, from Phoenix, Arizona, wanted her two-year-old daughter, Stella – who has been in a wheelchair since she was nine months old – to see that there are others out there like her, so she made her Elf of the Shelf, who is named Bean, use a wheelchair too.
Every night after the tot goes to bed, Samantha moves the elf to a new location in the house – a tradition that many families do in the weeks before Christmasto get their kids excited for Santa’s upcoming visit.
But Stella’s elf isn’t like the other elves. He uses a wheelchair and a medical feeding tube – just like she does.
Stella was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) just one month after she was born, which makes it difficult for her to walk.
And her mom, who worried that the youngster would have no one to relate to, decided to make the holiday tradition more inclusive.
Not only did Samantha design the elf so that he looked just like the young girl, but she also often positions Bean so that it appears like he’s participating in various activities that little Stella has to do as part of her treatments.
One night, she made Bean go rock climbing on her bedroom wall, which Stella often does at her occupational therapy.
And another night, she attached a nasogastric tube to Bean – which Stella uses to get food and medicine into her stomach. However, Bean’s was filled with hot cocoa.
Other times he was seen swimming in the bathtub, playing doctor with her other toys, and eating breakfast using pretend food.
Samantha said that she came up with the idea after she got Stella a Barbie doll that was also in a wheelchair, and she instantly saw her confidence grow.
She has never had a disability, and worried that her little girl wouldn’t have any one to relate to.
‘As a mom, I was worried about how am I going to relate to my child. I don’t have a disability, I unfortunately never had relationships with disabled people growing up,’ she told the outlet.
‘So to see her truly appreciate how much representation can mean, it was a no-brainer.’
The Elf on the Shelf tradition was started in 2005 after author Carol Aebersold released a children’s book about it – and it has since become widely popular.
It is said that the elf visits kids before Christmas to check on who is being naughty and who is being nice – and that he heads home to the North Pole every night while they’re asleep to report back to Santa.