Employee brings ‘elf on the shelf’ to life at St. Henry

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Bryan Barnett, director of facilities and maintenance for St. Henry Church and School in Nashville, surprised students, parents and staff the week of Dec. 13-17, by dressing up as a real-life elf on the shelf each morning. Submitted photo

St. Henry School students, parents and staff had their very own “Elf on the Shelf” for the final week of school before the Christmas break Dec. 13-17 thanks to the creativity of Bryan Barnett, director of facilities and maintenance for St. Henry Church and School in Nashville.  

“I’ve always enjoyed the excitement surrounding Christmas,” Barnett said. “I really wanted to be able to share my excitement for the season with the St. Henry community this year.”  

Early in the morning, Monday, Dec. 13, Barnett got himself ready and in place for day one, as he donned a red and white elf costume and climbed up on the sign for St. Henry Church and School. He showed up in a different spot on campus to greet students each day for the rest of the week. 

“I showed up on Monday, and you could see people were looking out onto the yard in front of the school,” explained Doris Grant, St. Henry development director. “Somebody was like, ‘Have you seen the elf?’ So, I was surprised when I showed up on Monday myself.” 

So were the students and their parents.  

“It has been a ton of fun,” Grant said. “I’ve heard kids at the end of the day say, ‘I can’t wait to see where he’s going to be tomorrow.’”  

“I knew the kids would be excited, but what surprised me most was the responses from the adults,” Barnett said. “Seeing the parent’s faces light up as they drop off their kids is priceless.  

“We’re always in such a hurry every morning, but now everyone is slowly driving through the parking lot and enjoying a brief moment with their kids sharing the excitement,” he said. “It makes my day.” 

The comments have poured in on St. Henry’s Facebook page, too, as Grant posts the pictures of the elf’s new spot each day, be it the roof of the school or high up in the tree.  

“Thank you for braving 29 degrees to make our day,” one comment read.  

Finding fun ways to celebrate the holidays is something Barnett has always done.  

“I’ve never done anything quite like this, but I really enjoy the holidays,” Barnett said. “Several years ago, I started putting together a haunted house at Halloween with the eighth-grade students. I’m really just a kid at heart.  

“I hope it has brought a sense of joy and laughter to our community. I’ve been overwhelmed with the response from the kids, parents and the entire community,” he added. “I hope it helps people realize to take time out of your busy day and enjoy the moment. Evidently, we all need to slow down a little bit and remember the reason for the season. Find your own child-like joy.”  

Barnett has set the bar high though, according to Grant, who heard a second-grader joyfully exclaim: “I can’t wait to see what he does for Easter.” 

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