The elves did what they know how to do best: they blessed with  gifts. This Christmas eve, the gifts were brought to the family of Emilio Hoffman, the 14-year-old who died June 10 in a shooting at Reynolds High School when a 15-year-old classmate shot Hoffman, injured a teacher and then killed himself.

While the family was away at dinner, the elves arrived and brought many presents casting holiday spirit on the home touched by tragedy.

The loss was unspeakably hard for his parents, Jennifer Hoffman and Abraham Gallardo, a sister, three brothers and an extended family.

Emilio Hoffman

Emilio’s sixth-grade teacher Jesse Slick remained in close contact with the family and was a part of the plan to bless them. At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Slick asked the family to join him for dinner.

“It was a decoy,” Slick said. “The plan was for my fiancé and I to take them out to eat and enjoy a meal while the elves sneaked in. The elves were in and out from 6:15 to 6:30.”

Altogether, the elves brought gifts worth thousands of dollars.

The family returned around 7:45 p.m. Silence followed with the surprise of the presents. Then the crying, laughing, and joyful shouting ensued.

“When Jennifer walked in with the little kids, it was like, ‘Whoa!” Slick said. “She immediately broke into tears and the kids were ecstatic like it was Christmas Day.”

Emilio’s death was devastating but pity wasn’t the reason the elves visited the family. It was about making positive memories.

A self-employed businessman in the Portland area who wishes to remain anonymous, spearheaded a national effort to identify a family that could use some extra help during the holidays. From those, they picked just one.

“The goal here was to create a memory. It had nothing to do with the money,” the businessman said. “We were hoping to make it a memorable Christmas for the family for positive reasons, especially the younger ones.”

The elves were assigned a family member and bought “nothing they need, everything they want.”

The anonymous businessman vowed to make the secret gift-giving an annual tradition.

“You can always find someone hurting worse than you,” he said. “What’s that saying? You complain about your shoes until you meet someone without any feet? This makes you want to hug your kids all day long.”

Katrina Aman is an aspiring journalist who desires to be a person of positive influence. Particularly passionate about poverty alleviation and civil rights, she hopes her writing takes her where she can improve lives.