November 20, 2012
His party line
In a world of cutthroat businesses, Eric Elkaim still believes the “more you give, the more you receive.”
As the founder of Los Angeles-based party vendor PartyWorks Interactive, which rents out premium rides, games, entertainment and attractions to companies and individuals hosting special events, Elkaim has put that conviction into practice for nearly 20 years.
Some of Elkaim’s high-profile clients include Vans Shoes, Virgin Airlines and Six Flags theme parks, as well as venues such as the Rose Bowl and Santa Anita Park. PartyWorks provides inflatable rides, sports courts, stages, live bands, arcade games, rock-climbing walls and much more for everything from corporate parties to conventions to premieres. Ditto for families throwing large-scale bar or bat mitzvahs.
When PartyWorks isn’t supplying equipment to lavish events, the company is often working pro-bono for organizations that don’t have the resources of PartyWorks’ big-name clients.
Foothill Unity Center, a Monrovia community organization that distributes food and provides services to very low-income families, is one of the recipients of Elkaim’s generosity.
Throughout the year, the organization sponsors community events, including a Thanksgiving food distribution, a holiday food drive and a back-to-school drive. Thousands of people attend these events, and PartyWorks helps Foothill Unity make these events fun and exciting for attendees, donating tables, staging, lighting, giant menorahs, oversized chairs for Santa, and dance floors.
PartyWorks also provides supplies and services that are less flashy, but just as important, such as a bouncer to help with line control as well as air-conditioning units.
“Money’s not everything, and to seek a smile and give something at no cost, something they can’t afford, is an amazing feeling,” said Elkaim, 49.
Elkaim has been donating party and event supplies to Foothill Unity for more than 15 years and he never asks for compensation, “just because it’s a good cause.” He calls Foothill Unity one of the most important organizations that he assists, but there are many others.
Elkaim’s PartyWorks began as a single popcorn-making machine. He founded the company in 1989 after years spent as a teenage performer around Los Angeles, working as a magician who incorporated comedy into his act during gigs at the Magic Castle, a nightclub for magicians and magic enthusiasts. Soon the people booking him asked if he could hire another magician to join him.
Sure, he said. He could do that.
Soon they were asking if he could bring along a face painter or a clown. Again, he said that he could.
Before he knew it, people were calling Elkaim to book entertainment for their events, including carnival booths and rides. He purchased his first popcorn machine and hasn’t looked back since.
A resident of Glendora, he isn’t your typical corporate head. In many ways, he still behaves like an entertainer. In fact, his professional title at PartyWorks is “director of all things outrageous!”
True to his roots, Elkaim combines comedy with his professional life. In 2010, when he organized Mitzvahs and More, a bar mitzvah trade show that the Jewish Journal sponsored, he had radio station KLOS 95.5 FM air a humorous and Jewy plug for the event:
“At…the world’s largest bar and bat mitzvah expo, you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to party until you plotz.”
But perhaps more important to him than having fun is developing relationships — not just because these relationships are good business but because they come in handy for giving back to the community.
Elkaim said he is particularly interested in helping soldiers and children. That is why PartyWorks donates resources to Soldiers’ Angels, which provides aid and comfort to members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families.
In 2008, Elkaim used his connections in the entertainment industry to bring popular alternative rock band Angels and Airwaves to perform at a party that Soldiers’ Angels threw for wounded American soldiers who were recovering at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. And motivated by research that shows that playing guitar can help wounded soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder improve their memory, he worked with Gibson guitars to provide free instruments to wounded warriors.
Echoes of Hope, which provides assistance to at-risk and emancipated foster youth, is another beneficiary of PartyWorks’ goodwill. Founded by retired Los Angeles Kings hockey player Luc Robitaille, the nonprofit hosts annual celebrity no-limit Texas Hold’em tournaments to raise money and awareness for the plight of the youths it serves. Elkaim happily donates poker tables and other casino supplies to these tournaments.
Other acts of generosity are more spontaneous. Sometimes, community organizations and nonprofits hosting events call to inquire how much it would cost to rent certain party equipment, and Elkaim simply offers it for free.
A lot of his desire to be altruistic comes from being Jewish, he said.
As he has gotten older, he said, “I started to believe in the Jewish way of thinking in giving anonymously. A true giver is somebody who doesn’t give to get their name on stuff as a sponsor. We do it because we want to.”