BIG-HEARTED Wearsiders helped make it a record-breaking year for a Wearside charity with their generous support of the Echo Toy Appeal.
Christmas gifts worth a staggering £17,345 were donated at collection points across Sunderland and delivered to those most in need.
It meant that 3,224 sick, vulnerable and disabled youngsters were able to open presents on Christmas Day.
The annual campaign also benefited scores of pensioners, struggling families and homeless people. The previous best was £14,000-worth of gifts, helping 2,200 youngsters.
The appeal kicked off 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.
Brian Dodds, chairman of trustees at Hope 4 Kidz, hailed 2014 as “the very best year” for the charity.
“It was the biggest and best response we’ve ever had,” he said. “It was truly amazing.
“These gifts make such a huge difference to children and families across the city.” Despite the economic downturn and high unemployment across the North East, Wearsiders dug deep for the appeal.
“The people of Sunderland are fantastic,” he said.
“The region has been through a lot in recent years, but they keep coming back and making more and more donations. Every year they step up to the plate and help us in any way they can.”
Hope 4 Kidz started the appeal with a request for selection boxes to help its children’s Christmas party go with a swing.
Many of the gifts have been passed on to Wearside Women in Need, a charity which the Echo 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’ Sunderland, B2B project at Hendon, CentrePoint, Child and Family Support Worker, Services for Disabled Children, Liberty From Addiction, Thorney Close Children’s Services, National Victims’ Association, Neo Natal Unit Sunderland, Sunderland Eye Infirmary, Niall Quinn Centre and Sunderland Royal Hospital.