Many people are looking forward to the prospect of a ‘normal’ Christmas this year following last year’s Covid Christmas in our household bubbles. But the sad reality is that not every family is fortunate enough to enjoy the traditions of Christmas celebrations.
Almost a third of children in the UK live in poverty; that’s around nine in a class of 30 primary school pupils.
Three quarters of these children live in a household where at least one parent works, so unemployment is not always the cause of poverty. But low paid and insecure jobs, as well as rising household and childcare costs and cuts to Universal Credit, are plunging more families below the breadline.
A child can be fed, clothed and go to school but still live in poverty if they don’t have a warm winter coat, don’t have access to fresh fruit and veg, or their parents go without food so the children can eat.
Christmas adds even more pressure to families already struggling to pay for essentials and keep their heads above water.
While you’re sending your children to bed on Christmas Eve so you can prepare for the next morning, there will be thousands of parents putting their children to bed early just to keep warm because they cannot afford to heat the house.
Some children are facing Christmas in a refuge after fleeing domestic abuse with very little possessions, uncertain if Father Christmas will know where to find them now that they’re not at home.
Parents of poorly or terminally ill children will be trying to give their child a magical Christmas but worrying about finances having had to give up work to care for their child.
Thankfully, there are kind, generous and benevolent people in South Yorkshire who dedicate their days to ensuring no child goes without at Christmas time.
The annual Christmas toy appeals are a great way to come together to spread Christmas cheer and put a smile on a child’s face on Christmas morning.
This is where, when you’re doing your Christmas shopping, you buy an extra gift to give to a disadvantaged child in the local area. This can be anything from preschool toys, to dolls and action figures, books and jigsaws, or toiletries and hair accessories for the older kids.
All items must be new and unopened and there’s no need to wrap any presents. Just drop them off at one of your local collection points and the elves will do their job.
The most important part is that children won’t know the gifts they receive are from strangers – we give for the good of our hearts, not the glory. All gifts donated are given to charities or organisations which redistribute them to the parents or guardians of those children in need to wrap up ready for the big day.
But how and where can you get involved?
Barnsley Christmas Toy Bank Appeal
The Barnsley Christmas Toy Bank Appeal was launched last year by barber Tony Batty and his friend Liam Hardcastle.
Tony has devoted his adult life to giving back to various good causes after the loss of his newborn son and a life-saving kidney transplant altered his outlook on life.
Last year’s response was fantastic and, thanks to donations from Barnsley residents and businesses, they collected 3,000 toys which were distributed to children in the borough.
This year, the appeal is back and Tony and Liam are hoping to use what they learned from 2020 to collect even more toys thanks to an influx of businesses wanting to be involved.
Any gift donations will be split between Barnsley Hospital charity, Newsome Avenue (respite care for children with complex or additional needs), Barnsley Care Leavers, Hope In Community, Weston Park Cancer Charity, and Single Parent Support and Advice Service (SPSAS).
There is also a Go Fund Me giving page and raffle running which aims to raise donations for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice who can’t accept physical items.
Tony will also be choosing 20 poorly children who have been nominated to receive a visit from Santa.
If you would like to donate, the team are looking for toys or gifts suitable for boys and girls aged 18 months to 16 years. There are over 25 drop-off points across the borough, from the town centre to Wombwell, Hoyland, Darfield, Mapplewell and Penistone. Larger Co-op and Tesco stores will have collection boxes, but you can find a full list on the Barnsley Christmas Toy Bank Appeal Facebook page.
All donations need to be in before Saturday 4th December so the small team of volunteers can distribute the items to the various charities and organisations.
Rotherham Christmas Toy Appeal
For almost 30 years, Ann Levick and a team of volunteers from Families First have been supporting less fortunate families in Rotherham at Christmas time.
What started as redistributing second-hand toys in the 1990s has since grown to an appeal which helps over 1,500 children each year.
Thanks to the support from the team at Parkgate Shopping, it is now really easy to get involved. The next time you’re down at the retail centre, look out for the giving trees which have tags on them. Each tag represents an individual child who has been referred to the toy appeal through social services, family support agencies or charities like Rotherham Ethnic Minority Alliance (REMA) and the British Red Cross.
Simply pick a tag based on the age of the child you’d like to buy for, buy your gift and drop it into one of any of the stores at Parkgate or at Voluntary Action Rotherham in the town centre. The elves will then ‘go shopping’ from the donations and match the toys or gifts up with the recipients from their referral list based on what that child has said they may like from Santa.
Ann and the team aim to ensure all children have a gift, soft toy and stocking filler, so even the smallest donations will go a long way to a child’s happiness at Christmas.
“We’ve been doing this a long time and we try and be as positive and friendly as we can be. But it’s wonderful to still receive the support year after year and we couldn’t do it without the generosity of Rotherham people. Even those with nothing always want to give something,” Ann says.
The Kindness Drive Christmas Gift Collection
The Kindness Drive is a charity project started earlier this year by Doncaster country music artist and pageant queen, Emma Jade Garbutt, to improve the lives of young cancer patients in the Yorkshire area.
Emma launched the project in memory of her best friend who died from a rare form of bone cancer in January and all donations go towards providing home comforts to teenage cancer units and giving the young people some independence while in hospital.
The Kindness Drive has already received hundreds of donations from people all over the UK. But this Christmas, Emma is calling on the generous public to donate gift ideas that will be given to children and young people at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
All toys or gifts must be new, unused and unopened and the age range is from birth to 18. Donations need to be in by Tuesday 14th December so Emma can deliver them to the hospital.
You can find out where to donate on The Kindness Drive’s Facebook page, but there is also an Amazon Wishlist full of gifts in a range of prices ready to be purchased and delivered directly to their HQ.
Emma said: “Starting The Kindness Drive has shown me how much kindness and compassion actually exists and it is such an incredible feeling knowing people want to help, especially when I know we’ve all had a really difficult couple of years. If anybody does have the means to be able to donate during the festive period, any gift will make a huge difference to the hospital.”