A compassionate teenager has embarked on a mission to bring joy and warmth to elderly residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities this Christmas through silly socks. 

Elle Gianelli from Stockton, California, launched the Socks4Seniors initiative during the pandemic after Elle and her mother Rachelle visited a local nursing home for an arts and crafts event in early 2020. 

Soon after the visit, “the whole world shut down,” Rachelle recalls. “We were sitting around thinking, ‘What are those people doing? They’re stuck in their rooms without visitors or activities.’ Then it hit us to send them the socks.” 

The meaningful connections Rachelle and Elle formed with the residents left a lasting impression, prompting them to take action when lockdown occurred. 

Elle receives a delivery of socks. Photo: Socks4Seniors Instagram

The inspiration behind the idea came from Elle’s habit of wearing silly socks when playing golf. “I play in silly socks,” she said. “I think it lightens my mood and it’s just a little good luck charm for me.”

Keen to lift the elderly residents’ spirits, Elle began distributing socks around her hometown. Her mission is to get silly socks on the feet of as many seniors as possible. Included with each pair of socks is a note containing Elle’s contact information in case any of the elderly residents need somebody to talk to.

“You never know what someone is going through, so something really small like silly socks can do something for someone,” Elle said.

Scaling up the project, Elle and Rachelle decided to “make a geography lesson out of it” by finding assisted living facilities in each state, with the goal of reaching people in all 50 states.

Claire Whitehouse from Massachusetts enjoys her cherry-themed socks. Photo: Rachelle Gianelli 

“[Now] she has requests from all over the world,” Rachelle said, noting that Elle has made several penpals along the way. “Since, sadly over time, residents in these places change, there’s always a need. And what we’ve learned is that some seniors never have visitors, COVID aside. It’s been eye-opening, and shows this small amount of our time can make such a difference.”

Spreading smiles and injecting colour in the lives of the elderly, this year, Socks4Seniors has reached new heights. Elle, a high school junior, started the project in 7th grade and has provided socks to an impressive 4,812 people in 92 different care homes in 48 states to date. 

“For such a small investment of her time, the impact is overwhelming,” Rachelle said. “She wants to put a smile on the faces of these seniors, one pair of socks at a time.”

As she stocks up on socks for the holiday season, Elle is determined to show the elderly residents that somebody cares by bringing them comfort over the winter.

Sharing her hopes for the future, Elle said, “My hope is that one day in the near future I’ll be able to personally deliver each and every pair to our local facilities, but for now I’ll keep providing special notes with my socks.” 

Elle’s passion project has grown over the past 4 years. Photo: Rachelle Gianelli

In order to reach as many people as possible, Elle started a GoFundMe where she wrote, “My heart is so full and it’s because of the generosity of all of you, so I wanted to extend a special thank you! I also have big plans for 2024 to keep things going and reach even more seniors near (and maybe far). Stay tuned, and many blessings to you all!” 

Elle’s dedication to brightening seniors’ days with small acts of kindness is a powerful reminder of the ripple effect that compassion and thoughtfulness can have on fostering a more connected and caring community. 

“Elle has always been the giving type,” Rachelle said. “It’s just something in her nature. I’m so proud.”

Help Elle reach her new fundraising goal of $15,000 by visiting her GoFundMe page

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About Author

Zayna is an events content producer at Salesforce Ben, a freelance writer at LeadGeneratorsDigital, and a journalist at Good News Shared. She hopes to cast light on the ripple effect of small acts of kindness that lead to great waves of change.

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