When the Elmo doll belonging to 5-year-old Ainsley Giorgio was lost and left behind at the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Amelia Island, Fla., during a family trip earlier this month, it likely thought its vacation was over.
Thanks to the work of canny and humorous resort employees, though, Elmo's vacation was just starting, and Ainsley would not go long without her beloved toy.
Just a few days, and one frantic phone call, after the family realized the Elmo doll that had been with Ainsley since she was a baby went missing, Elmo showed up at the family's Orlando home.
ABCNews.com today.Elmo didn't arrive alone, but with a leaflet book titled "Elmo at the Ritz" to show Ainsley all he had done at the resort after getting left behind "somewhere between the restaurant and the pool" last week, hotel spokesman Joe Murphy told
"Hi Ainsley, just want to let you know that we found this little guy by the pool and thought you might recognize him," the resort's staff wrote to its former guest. "He decided he was going to stay at the hotel for a few days and have some more fun."
Those opening words were followed by a booklet full of photos of Ainsley's Elmo doll relaxing in a chaise longue by the luxury resort's pool, playing games in the resort's arcade and relaxing even more in the spa and fitness center.
"After a few days of fun he wanted to help out," reads the next page in the booklet, according to Murphy, showing Elmo staring intently at security computers in the resort's Loss and Prevention department.
It was there, in the Loss Prevention department, that the grand vacation scheme for Elmo was hatched, by employees who are at the receiving end of parents' frantic calls for help finding beloved toys and blankets mistakenly left behind.
"That stuffed toy to them is real, it's totally personified," Murphy said. "We usually get some frantic call from the parent. Usually the parent is crying and the child is crying in the background. It's just so real. Every parent has been through it."
After a few calls, the department's employees developed a routine that when a call comes through and a lost toy or item is found, the security guard on duty takes the toy on its grand vacation at the Ritz. They then put the photos in the booklet and mail it, along with the found toy, to the family.
In some cases of a real emergency, the photos are emailed to the family to provide immediate assurance to the child that its lost toy is a-OK.
In the case of Elmo, it was Ritz employee Nelson Quesada, who was not available for comment, who was on duty that night and escorted Elmo around the resort.
"We've probably done about 10 of them so far," Murphy said. "It's become kind of a nice thing for our Loss and Prevention department to engage with customers. It's never the same photos twice because every toy's 'vacation' is different."
"Everybody's been through it," he said of the frenzy that ensues when a "security blanket" is lost. "Whether it was your toy as a child or you're a parent and have been through it."
Ainsley's family declined to comment to ABCNews.com but told local TV station WKMG that they would be forever grateful to Quesada and the Ritz.
"Nobody goes above and beyond anymore in this high-tech world," Ainsley's mother, Raquel Giorgio, told WKMG. "And this guy, Nelson, at the Ritz, not only returned Elmo to us, and actually found him, but made a book that Ainsley will have for the rest of her life."
- Travel & Tourism