WEARSIDERS have once again shown that they really do know the true meaning of Christmas.
Thanks to your amazing generosity hundreds of youngsters were once again able to have a Christmas to remember, with more than 3,000 gifts donated.
And it wasn’t just children who benefited – scores of pensioners, needy families and the homeless have also benefited from your amazing response to our Echo Toy Appeal.
The appeal was launched at the end of November in partnership with Hope 4 Kidz, a Wearside-based charity which supports children and young people suffering from a physical or mental disability, and once again our readers helped to make that miracle come true.
Hope 4 Kidz started the appeal with a request for selection boxes to help its children’s Christmas party go with a swing.
Viv Watts, chief executive of Hope 4 Kidz, said: “Every year we hold a Christmas party for children to help them escape the stresses and strains of their everyday lives and have fun with children in a similar situation to themselves.
“The response to our appeal was truly amazing. More than 400 children attended our Christmas party and had a whale of time, but that was just the start.
“We have had an amazing year and we have been able to help so many more people than we ever thought possible.
“We have been collecting and delivering gifts almost everyday. We just cannot thank people enough for responding so generously to the appeal.
“We have had amazing amount of toys. They have been unbelievable gifts too from fairy castles to train sets as well as clothing for children, women and men – truly amazing.”
Thousands of gifts were donated at our collection points across the city and delivered to those most in need.
Viv added: “To date, we have distributed more than 3,000 items across the city, and a highlight for us this Christmas was getting Sunderland footballing legends Ritchie Pitt, Bobby Kerr and Micky Horswill to deliver toys to the staff and patients on the children’s wards at Sunderland Royal Hospital.”
Many of the gifts have been passed on to Wearside Women in Need (WWIN), a charity which the Echo Toy Appeal has been supporting for more than 20 years, as well as many other good causes.
Among those to also benefit are Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project, Ashkirk Homeless Project at Lakeside, Hendon Children’s Centre, Durham Women’s Refuge, Young Carers’ Sundeland, B2B project at Hendon, CentrePoint, Child and Family Support Worker, Services for Disabled Children, Libery From Addiction, Thorney Close Children’s Services, National Victims’ Assocition, Neo Natal Unit Sunderland, Sunderland Eye Infirmary, Niall Quinn Centre and Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Claire Phillipson, director of Wearside Women in Need, said: “It has been fantastic. Every year we say it has been better than the last but every year people manage, despite hardships of their own, to prove that they are indeed among the very kindest and most thoughtful people of all.
“They think of everything and we cannot thank them enough.
“This year, apart from the many gifts we distributed, we were able to treat more than 100 people to a Christmas feast and all due to the donations of Echo readers as well as businesses and factories in the area. We didn’t have to buy a thing.
“The people of Sunderland really do know what Christmas is all about.
Among those who helped to make the appeal such a success were our designated collection points without whose help this would not be possible. They are: Matalan, Pallion; Sainsbury’s, Silksworth; Sainsbury’s North; Sainsbury’s, Fulwell; Sainsbury’s Washington; Volunteers’ Centre Sunderland; Morrisons, Seaburn; Morrisons, Doxford Park, and Hope 4 Kidz.
Thanks also go to Michael and Sharon Downey, of Illusions Club in Sunderland, for sponsoring the children’s Christmas party, Gentoo, Asda George at Washington and all the other businesses who contributed to our appeal.
Viv Watts added: “I would like to say a huge thank you everyone who has helped to make this Christmas so very special. You are all truly amazing.”
Gavin Foster, managing editor of the Sunderland Echo, said: “Once again our readers have shown remarkable generosity.
“Thanks to their kindness, many in less fortunate positions have enjoyed some Christmas cheer.
“We thank everyone who helped with or donated to the Echo Toy Appeal this year. It has been a fantastic all-round effort once again.”