Fort McMurray's version of Buddy the Elf runs for charity and Christmas cheer

·3 min read
Blake Crossley has been Fort McMurray local version of Buddy the Elf for years.  (Submitted by Crystal Mercredi - image credit)
Blake Crossley has been Fort McMurray local version of Buddy the Elf for years. (Submitted by Crystal Mercredi - image credit)

In Fort McMurray, elf sightings aren't just a holiday tradition.

In the summer, spring, winter or fall people in the Wood Buffalo region may see Buddy the Elf running through the streets, hop-scotching through crosswalks, or singing at fundraisers.

The elf is a staple during the town's holiday season.

Enter Blake Crossley, otherwise known as Fort McMurray's Buddy the Elf.

Buddy the Elf is the main character from the film Elf, released in 2003. It features Will Ferrell, as a human raised by elves.

Crossley, a marathon runner, has been dressing up as Buddy since 2009 when he went as the elf for Halloween.

But since then he says it's "just manifested into something bigger."

Crossley didn't just dress as Buddy, he took on the character and tried to make people laugh.

With the pandemic, the character has been more important, Crossley said

"There's been a lot of uncertainty and a lot of fear," said Crossley.

"I firmly believe that if you can reach out to just one person, regardless of age, you're doing a good thing."

Crossley takes his role seriously, going as far as contacting a team member from the company that made Will Ferrell's costume for the movie, and ordering his own elf outfit.

Crossley doesn't just get into character for his runs, over the holiday season he's swamped with requests for him to attend fundraisers.

Leading up to Christmas he volunteers at least four days a week.

Cindy Amerongen, executive director for the Northern Lights Health Foundation, said Buddy is a regular on the fundraiser circuit. Buddy attended the foundation's Festival of Trees and Bright Nights events and raised money by running a marathon

"Buddy's been a supporter of the health foundation for a very long time," said Amerongen.

Jamie Malbeuf/CBC
Jamie Malbeuf/CBC

Because of the pandemic, Crossley wasn't able to help as much in person, but he did make a video for the kids and he does go to events when possible.

Over the course of the pandemic he's done charity runs, Zoom meetings with kids for their birthdays and with the Girl Guides.

In one case, he got to deliver a puppy to a family as a surprise.

Fort Mcmurray locals often take videos of the six-foot elf jumping across crosswalks and running the streets.

"I do it for those who just need something to break up the day," said Crossley. He said his goal is to make at least one person smile each time.

Crossley said the character has helped his mental health as he's gone through struggles of his own. The former basketball player and triathlon competitor, discovered he had issues with his heart in the mid-2000s.

"It was like a roller coaster ride. One appointment I was fine… six months later, you're not fine. And it was going on and on and on."

He had to give up basketball and triathlons, and was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy.

He's since had a pacemaker put in, and his focus is making life as joyous as possible.

"Running for people who can't. That brings me joy," said Crossley.

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