Christmas arrived at a Northumberland visitor attraction yesterday as it was taken over by hundreds of elves.
Northumberlandia, the land sculpture of a naked lady near Cramlington, was invaded by 340 people in elf costumes for an event organised to raise money, and collect Christmas presents for, disadvantaged children in the region.
The Elf run, the first of its kind in the North East, saw businesses from Northumberland and Tyneside enter teams of employees, with the likes of Virgin Media, Proctor and Gamble and a group from a school at Stannington taking part.
Runners, who went in three groups to fit in with their employers’ lunch times, dressed in costumes they had made themselves, with a competition for best outfit in each race.
Some displayed their own elf names which they had been invited to come up with themselves.
Participants running the two and half mile course were each encouraged to seek sponsorship of £10 for the hour long races.
All ran with presents or toys which they had been asked to bring to give to disadvantaged children in the region, to allow them enjoy a happy Christmas, with some people carrying three or four.
Many were sports related, with runners having been encouraged to address a shortage of gifts for teenage boys.
All were handed to Courage the Cat, mascot of Cash for Kids – the official charity of Metro Radio and Magic 1152, which organised the event as part of its Mission Christmas campaign in partnership with the attraction, Northumberland Sport and Metro.
Magic North East Breakfast presenter Anna Foster greeted the elves on the finish line and participants were given refreshments and a goody bag in a marquee while being entertained by Metro Radio Big Audition winners, North Road.
The campaign is an annual toy appeal organised by the charity. With one in three children living in poverty in the North East, thousands of youngsters in the region will be forgotten this Christmas. The charity aims to make sure that every child wakes up to a present on the big day.
Last year’s campaign was the biggest yet, helping 12,859 underprivileged children who are suffering from abuse, neglect, sick or living in poverty. Demand this year is even higher.
In all, the event raised around £4,000 for the campaign.
Stephanie Simpson, regional manager for Cash for Kids, said: “I think today has been absolutely a phenomenal success for Cash for Kids.
“Seeing everybody dressed up and the effort they had put in to all their costumes it was just fantastic.
“Everyone has brought a present and raised a lot of money.
“We are absolutely thrilled at Cash for Kids because it is all part of our Mission Christmas.”
Neville Duncan, from Northumberland Sport – a partnership which promotes sports participation and active lifestyles, added: “We’re really excited to bring the Elf Run, the first of its kind in the North East, to Northumberlandia.
“It’s a fantastic setting for this unique event and will hopefully inspire local workforces to get more active this Christmas and into the New Year.
“The fact that all of the toys and money donated will go to Cash for Kids to give to disadvantaged children makes it even more special.”
The event may be repeated at other locations around the country next year, with the Northumberlandia race a pilot for national charity bosses.