Cancer survivor and ‘Real Elf’ returns to hospital to cheer up patients

CHICAGO -- There was an elf roaming the halls at Rush University Medical Center Thursday, as one of Santa’s helpers made his way back to a place he knows very well.

Known as "Tommy the Real Elf," Tommy Holl started dressing up as an elf after his friends told him he looked like the Elf on the Shelf.

"You can’t take life too seriously. Got to have a sense of humor and a candy cane," Holl said.

A cancer survivor himself, Holl was treated at Rush, where he walked through the halls to spread holiday cheer to pediatric patients and their families.

"I know what they’re going through - I’ve gone through similar situation," Holl said. "To be able to visit them and put a little smile on their face... it really is a big deal."

Angel Harden's 15-year-old son Craig has been in the hospital for a few days. Since her 10-year-old son died from an asthma attack several years ago, she says the holidays have been especially hard. She's hoping Craig will be released this weekend.

"It’s good for the kids to have someone visit them while they’re in the hospital," Harden said. "It’s more hard during the Christmas; people say it gets easier but it doesn’t."

Pediatric Hospitalist Dr. Christina Chen says the visits are especially nice for kids who are stuck in their rooms.

"[It's] nice to bring Christmas spirit to them while they’re here," Dr. Chen said.

Rush also received a big gift Thursday: a $100,000 check presented to the oncology department by Swim Across America.