RE/MAX office embodies spirit of late Broker/Owner
By Lisa A. Beach
No matter how much you’re helping others, you can always do more. That was the philosophy of RE/MAX Alliance Broker/Owner Mick Hoff.
Back in 2004, staff at his Virginia Beach, Virginia office had already been taking annual tours of nearby Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD), were regular volunteers at the hospital’s fundraising telethons, and agents participated in the Miracle Homes Program – donating a portion of their commission from the home’s sale to support the hospital.
But Mick, his wife/business partner Trudy, and real estate agent Traci Lewis Vancamp, wanted to do more. The trio talked with CHKD and decided that a visit from Santa would be a welcome sight for the children staying at the hospital during the holidays. So in 2004, Mick donned a Santa suit for the first time. It was the start of an annual tradition.
Delivering Magic Moments
With his long white beard and soft heart for children, Mick was a natural to play Santa. He made a lasting impact on hundreds of CHKD children and families over the years.
One little girl, in particular, epitomized the sheer delight brought to the hospital by a visit from Saint Nick. Dressed as Santa, Mick delivered a dream-come-true gift: a ballerina outfit and slippers. She quickly put on the slippers, tip-toed into the hallway, and began pirouetting down the corridor. “I knew you would come, Santa!” she exclaimed. “I even told my dad you would come.” The staff, patients, and visitors could hear the awe, gratitude and hope in her voice. She, in turn, lifted everyone else’s spirits with her joyous, impromptu dancing.
The Norfolk and Virginia Beach area is home to a large military population, which is another reason CHKD held a special place in Mick’s, a retired Navy captain with the Civil Engineer Corps, heart. He knew many of the children treated at the hospital came from military families.
“Because CHKD is close to our office, we have agents, staff, and clients who’ve had children in the hospital for lengthy stays,” explains Trudy. “We think this is a fantastic way to honor those families.”
Keeping the Spirit Alive
When Mick passed away in 2013, the RE/MAX Alliance team was faced with the dilemma of whether or not to continue this treasured holiday tradition. After all, Mick embodied the generosity of Santa – even growing out his beard for months so he could look the part in December.
The entire office decided to keep the spirit of Christmas alive at CHKD in Mick’s memory.
Enter RE/MAX Alliance agent Christian Phillips, who agreed to play Santa and fill Mick’s shoes to continue the beloved tradition Mick started years ago.
“I love being able to bring a brief moment of joy to these families during terrible times,” Phillips says. “When I come into the room, it seems to calm stress levels and put smiles on people’s faces. My favorite part? It’s all done in complete anonymity. Being part of this program is the greatest privilege of my life!”
The tradition has now been going on for 14 years, growing bigger each year.
Preparing for Santa
This company-wide tradition begins long before December, with agents bringing in gifts and dropping off monetary donations months in advance. Trudy and Traci use the donations to shop for more gifts, ensuring they have presents for all ages. They even buy gift cards for the parents of children staying in the hospital. Finally, the RE/MAX Alliance staff gathers for a party to sort the gifts by age range, wrap them, and load them into cars.
At the hospital, a small RE/MAX Alliance team hand-delivers candy canes to patients, staff and families in the lobby and hallways. Then they pile the presents into wagons and visit children room by room, usually spending the entire day at CHKD.
“We usually visit 200 children in their rooms, and many more throughout the hospital,” Trudy Hoff says. “We bring about 1,000 gifts each year. Whatever we don’t deliver, CHKD keeps for birthday presents, for the playrooms, or the ER.”
In addition to Santa 2.0, the program continues to grow and change. Last year Trudy and Traci bought more expensive gifts for the newborns, like swings and playpens, because they wanted to give families something to use at home. They also want to boost community involvement in this feel-good tradition.
“We’ve received more donations of larger sums by a lot of our agents or their clients the last few years,” says Carrie Webber, marketing coordinator for RE/MAX Alliance. “We hope to continue to see the donations rise each year.”
Mick Hoff is missed, but the spirit and generosity of the original Santa lives on.
“Mick liked the nurturing part of the visits,” Trudy recalls fondly. “He always tried to get the children to smile. And for a few minutes while he was there, they were not in pain.”
No matter how the program evolves, it continues to tap into the heart of the tradition — making kids smile.