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Elf at the Y: Spreading Christmas Cheer and Engaging Members


Diane Hallagan, the wellness coordinator at the French Creek Family YMCA shares why she came up with the Elf at the Y to engage members.

The French Creek Family YMCA, a branch of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, in Avon, Ohio, has come up with a fun, unique program to get members engaged at their facility.

Diane Hallagan, the wellness coordinator at the French Creek Y, wanted to bring back the sense of community their Y had lost after facing a shutdown. Since all members and staff are required to wear a mask at all times, she wanted to create a fun, yet safe, way to engage members. Thus, the Elf at the Y was created.

Elf at the Y is the French Creek Y’s take on Elf on the Shelf. The elf watches over the members at a different part of the facility each day. If members spot him, they are supposed to take a picture of the elf and share on social media, tagging the Y in the post. Each post counts as one entry in a raffle for multiple prizes including 60-minute personal training sessions, water bottles, a one-month membership for a friend, 30-minute personal training sessions and more.

“I came up with the idea because I feel as we close out 2020, we need to bring back a little bit of fun,” said Hallagan. “Also, Elf on the Shelf really resonates with our youth, so I wanted to bring some of that Christmas fun to our adult members at the Y.”

However, the elf serves other purposes than just having fun. The Y is using the fun game to get their members engaging with and following their social media platforms. “It’s really a way to connect through our Facebook and Instagram pages,” explained Hallagan. “In 2021 we are going to be putting virtual workouts on our social media platforms along with personal training, so this is a great way to connect our members to those platforms.”

The elf will be at the Y until December 24, allowing members plenty of opportunity to gain raffle tickets. Additionally, the elf is hidden throughout the entire facility, getting members to explore parts of the Y they typically wouldn’t venture to.

Overall, Hallagan said she hopes in addition to getting members to interact with their social platforms and checking out parts of the facility they typically don’t visit, at the very least she hopes the elf will bring a smile to their face during the difficult time.

“I just want to develop that sense of community again,” said Hallagan. “It felt when we came back from being closed, there wasn’t that connection to the community. We were all wearing masks and not having a physical connection like shaking hands or giving hugs, and we gave hugs to everyone here so that was really missing. I wanted to make that connection with this little elf.”


Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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