William & Mary students traded in their college apparel over the holiday break to adorn red and white Santa hats and help a national talk show surprise a local family in need.
The wardrobe switch and transition from students to Santa’s elves was part of the Ellen DeGeneres show’s “12 Days of Giveaways.” William & Mary students acted as elves on the show by surprising a deserving local family in Hampton, Va., with more than $30,000 worth of gifts. The show will air Monday, Jan. 7 on WTKR CBS Channel 3 at 3 p.m.
The show’s associate producer contacted W&M’s Office of University Relations in late December to see if any students might be able to help. Although most of the students had already cleared out for winter break, more than a dozen local students volunteered to participate, including the entire women’s basketball team. The final participants were sworn to secrecy until after the show aired so as to not ruin the surprise for the family.
On Thursday, Jan. 3, the students loaded a van full of prizes and headed over to the house, where they anxiously waited outside on a side street before making their debut on national television to deliver the gifts.
On-air correspondent Jeannie Klisiewicz knocked on the door of the home of Dominique and Jonathan Pierce and led the students into the house. They carried a plethora of gifts, including a 42-inch television, gift cards ranging from $200 to $2,000, concert tickets, electronics and a trip to Jamaica. Sounds of applause from the studio audience in Los Angeles echoed in the background.
Kristina Neuhart, a master’s student in the School of Education, was designated as elf No. 1. She handed the first prize – a gigantic J.C. Penney gift card worth $1,500 – to the mom, dad and their four children, all under the age of four.
“I think the family was in shock,” said Neuhart. “They said they didn’t have much of a Christmas and the little kids just kept jumping up and down. It was an amazing experience, and I was thrilled to represent William & Mary.”