Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
December 2, 1998

DOCTORS AS SANTAS; EMORY UNDERGRADS AS ELVES: Emory Community Pulls Together to Make Holiday Brighter for Hundreds of Inner City Kids

Instead of having its annual, glitzy holiday party, the department of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine (the largest department at Emory), is using the money to host a Gift-Giving Party for hundreds of inner city children from Slaton Elementary School.

Other important participants include some of the 180 Emory undergraduate students who developed relationships with Slaton Elementary students through the Emory READ literacy tutoring program.

WHERE: Emory University campus

WHEN: Friday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

10-11 a.m. ASSEMBLY: Some 280 schoolchildren will visit Glenn Memorial Chapel for a holiday program that will include lively musical performances, goofy skits and inspirational talks.

SILLY START: Emory doctor, comedian and event organizer Neil Shulman, M.D., will kick off the assembly with a goofy skit (which he and his fellow actors have performed at nearly 500 schools) intended to get the giggles going ­ and reduce kids' fears of the doctors they'll be meeting later. Costumed characters "Mr. B.P. Cuff" and "Otis the Otoscope" will play along.

MUSIC: Performances during the assembly will be given by the Intown Community Church Choir, an organist from Emory's music department and the Slaton Elementary School Band. more

INSPIRATION: Juha Kokko, M.D., chairman of Emory's department of medicine, will welcome the students and give an inspirational talk about the benefits of literacy and education -- and the dangers of drugs.

11:15 a.m.- DOCTORS AS SANTAS:

12:30 p.m.- Physicians from Emory's department of medicine will give gifts to each child in the Fellowship Hall of Glenn Memorial Church. Each child will receive a book which he or she previously chose that has been wrapped by volunteers at Intown Community Church. Intown also is providing additional gifts.

"I want my staff to share in the heart-warming feeling that is associated with this type of party," says Dr. Kokko, whose department hosted a similar party in 1997. "This is one of the most satisfying experiences I've ever had. I can't tell you how much it means to have a 6- or 7-year-old tyke grab you by the leg and tell you he loves you I still remember last year's party but I couldn't tell you about any of the other cocktail parties I went to last year."

BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS: The importance of the books is to enhance literacy, says Dr. Kokko and Emory READ founder Nir Eyal, an Emory sophomore from Israel majoring in political science and journalism.

"Working with children at Slaton Elementary School, I know that one crucial element lacking in their lives is books," says Mr. Eyal. "The Medical School's generous donation, AmeriCorps' daily hard work and Emory READ's commitment, will give these children the books they are hungry to read and the skill they deserve to receive."

AMERICORPS DECORATORS, AND OTHER ELVES: The six Hands on Atlanta AmeriCorps volunteers working assigned full-time to Slaton Elementary will have spent the morning decorating the Fellowship Hall to the hilt. Emory Campus Dining is donating refreshments and Emory Spanish department faculty will serve as interpreters. A graduate student fiddler and a country singer are among the party entertainers.

CARLOS MUSEUM TOURS: AmeriCorps volunteers will lead children on special tours of the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Art and Archaeology.

TOURS OF CAMPUS: Undergraduate student volunteers with Emory READ and other Emory students and staff will give tours of the Emory campus to groups of the older schoolchildren. "By coming here (to Emory) I want to tell them they can achieve what they see," Dr. Kokko says.

WORLD PLAY TOY-MAKING: The younger schoolchildren will make World Play toys ­ handmade toys crafted after toys created by children around the world.

GIFTS FOR GHANA: The Slaton Elementary School students will bring with them cards and gifts they have prepared that will be sent to children in a hospital in Ghana, Africa. The items will be presented to Joy Lawn, M.D., an Atlanta pediatrician who formerly practiced at Kumasi Teaching Hospital, Ghana.

DOC HOLLYWOOD: Event organizer is Neil Shulman, M.D., a department of medicine faculty member better known as Doc Hollywood. Warner Brothers produced the movie Doc Hollywood starring Michael J. Fox, based on Dr. Shulman's loosely autobiographical book "What? Dead Again?" Dr. Shulman is an extremely colorful personality who, among many other activities, has written books to lessen children's fears of visiting the doctor, and who has shared these "health" messages in videos and in live performances at hundreds of schools.

A MODEL FOR THE MILLENNIUM: Dr. Shulman and Dr. Kokko hope other Emory departments ­ as well as other institutions, corporations and churches around the city ­ will use this "ALTERNATIVE TO THE OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY" as a model so that every school in the Atlanta Public School System will be "adopted" at the holiday season next year and in years after.

CONTACT: Media wishing to come to campus to interview the children or Emory faculty, staff or students, please contact Sarah Goodwin, Emory Health Sciences Communications, at 404/727-3366 or

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences Communication's Office at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to

Copyright ©Emory University, 1998. All Rights Reserved.