Claremont boy is the bearer of joy for mom's new business
The Elf Shelf, a new business that makes and delivers customized gift baskets, was started by Janette Coombs as a way to create meaningful work for her son, Nicholas Coombs.
“I want his life to be purposeful, even though it's a challenge to come up with something that he can do,” his mother, Janette Coombs, said.
Nick, 18, has been beating the odds his whole life. He was born 10 weeks premature, weighing two pounds, six ounces. He was eventually diagnosed with a rare growth disorder.
“He truly is a miracle, because at 4 years old he was still wearing 12 months' clothing,” Coombs said.
Nick is now four feet tall and weighs less than 60 pounds. He knows about 40 words and has epilepsy. His parents were told Nick would never walk or talk, but last June they saw him walk across the stage at the Stevens High School graduation to accept his diploma.
Nick will be at the high school's technical center until he turns 21, but his classmates made sure he was part of their graduating class, Janette Coombs said. The day was wonderful, but brought home to the Coombs that soon all the state would have to offer would be adult day-care for their son.
“I was sitting there thinking, 'What can I do to make sure he's not falling through the cracks?'” Janette said.
Soon after his graduation, Janette quit her job to start The Elf Shelf, a business she and Nick could do together.
“I'm so passionate about it because I'm not going to just bring him to adult services and leave him there,” she said.
What Nick brings to the business is what he has always brought to his friends and his family, according to his aunt, Suzanne Hawley of New Boston.
“When you meet him the effect he has on people is just joy,” she said. “His smile ... when you see him, you just feel happy. I can't explain it. His spirit, it's just unbelievable.”
Coombs takes orders to create customized gift baskets; Nick goes with her to shop for the items. Nick then delivers the gift basket wearing his elf hat.
“He knows it's something special and he gets into this mode that he is doing something special. He starts to laugh. He wants to ask (the gift recipient) to sit with him. It's like watching magic unfold,” Janette Coombs said.
Thursday morning, mother and son made a delivery to an employee at Crown Point Cabinetry in Claremont. It was the woman's 30th birthday.
“Am I being Elfed?” the woman asked excitedly.
Nikki Goeway of Claremont had heard about the service through a friend and had a gift basket delivered to her mother, Beth Hewes-Boardman.
Goeway and her 12-year-old son, Noah Spaulding, were present at the delivery last week to meet Nick.
“It was pretty awesome. My mom was pretty excited. We just loved it. We could have sat there all day with him,” Goeway said. “It was a fantastic experience. I would definitely recommend it.”
Photographer Sharna Wilkerson of Claremont got to know Nick when she took his senior photo.
“I'm just so excited for his venture. It puts him in such a happy place and I think everybody loves to see that. Not only do you get a gift, which is great, you get it from him, which is even better,” Wilkerson said.
One of Nick's first deliveries was to his childhood friend, Hayleigh Roy, on her 18th birthday. Roy said Nick never stops tackling head-on the challenges that face him.
“I think it's one of the coolest things because he gets just as much satisfaction out of it as we do receiving the gift,” Roy said.
Janette Coombs is working to spread the word about the new business and has created a Facebook page.
The family — which includes dad, Alex, and 14-year-old Kayleigh, is willing to “restructure and do with less” to give Nick a purpose, she said.
“It was a leap of faith to go from a solid income to nothing,” Janette Coombs said. “It's going to take time to build. I just say, 'Trust in this.' If I can just contribute to the household a little bit, it would be great.”
To contact The Elf Shelf, call 542-3956.
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