Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Brett Williams has tried to lighten the mood by bringing out various entertainment characters to help both children and adults alike.
For the holidays he brought back an old yuletide character, Tinkles the Elf.
For the past two years, Williams has donned the hat, ears and of course pointy shoes to bring the six-foot-tall pixie act to schools, senior homes and private parties.
“I happened to have the elements of this sweet costume at home,” Williams said. “And, I thought I could put it to good use.”
During his day job as a youth counsellor, Williams sees the impact that the pandemic has had on both children and their families on a daily basis, prompting him to bring Tinkles back to life.
“My clients across the board have pre-existing concerns and their stressors and challenges, and the pandemic just really ramps up all of those,” Williams said.
“It reduces available support networks, it reduces opportunity for self-care, other leisure activities which are good for our health. So, it’s definitely put a damper on everything.”
To Williams, it was a no-brainer to bring the elf back from his north-pole exile.
“Hearing stories from kids, hearing their struggles, their lack of fun and leisure, and knowing how much that impacts the family as well, I’m just trying to find a fun little way to give back.”
Experts say it is important for people to recognize that everyone is struggling right now, especially during the holidays.
“All the different things we have to deal with in this holiday period, and it’s also probable that children are feeling the same anxiety and sadness around not being able to engage in holiday tradition the way they usually do,” said associate clinical psychologist Arnella Myers.
“We’re redefining how we have our holiday period so that in the next couple of years, we can have the opportunity to get together.”
What is important is focussing on what can be controlled, said registered clinical psychologist Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman.
“If you celebrate the holidays or Christmas, I think it’s important to focus on the sentiment and this can be a wonderful teaching moment for children,” Abdulrehman said.
“We want to focus on what this time with family means for us.”
Although Williams did internally struggle with bringing back Tinkles during a pandemic, the need from the youth that he’s seen was too great.
During Tinkles’ return, Williams has gone to great lengths to strictly follow all guidelines, including maintaining a safe distance, constant handwashing, and wearing a mask.
“We do need to prioritize safety, reducing any risks of transmissions,” Williams explained. “But, also trying to balance that by living life.”
It may seem like a lot of extra work to follow the stringent guidelines, however, Williams is well versed in pandemic distanced entertainment. In March and April, he provided levity as the socially distanced entertainer “Noodle Man.”
He admits, though, that his yuletide counterpart seems to have received a warmer reception.
“For children and dogs, in particular, they’re familiar with the elf as a character,” Williams said. “Whereas I’ve heard from that Noodle Man guy that kids are sometimes apprehensive, and dogs were not a fan. However, as an elf, thankfully people know what that’s about,” he chuckled.
Lucky for those who wish to book Tinkles over his Kijiji ad, he’ll be in town for the foreseeable future, offering his services into the new year.
“With the restrictions on non-essential travel I won’t be headed back to the North Pole too soon,” he said.
— With files from Malika Karim