A SELFLESS soldier and his wife have made it their mission to bring Christmas cheer to more than 400 children this year.

Jason and Tracey Desmond, based at Dalton Barracks near Abingdon, were inspired after years volunteering with Abingdon Food Bank and witnessing the 'heartbreaking' sight of parents unable to buy their children Christmas presents to organise a toy drive.

Setting up an appeal and coordinating it via their Facebook page Abingdon Community Events the couple have collected and wrapped 400 toys for the food bank, delivered on Friday, along with 28 which have been sent to a women's refuge and 87 to other local agencies.

An online fundraiser also raised £270, which went towards purchasing gifts.

Sergeant Desmond said: “We have been helping out in the food bank at Christmas the last few years and we noticed that a lot of the families are not able to afford to buy toys for the their children and this is heartbreaking.

“So me and Tracey discussed this year instead of collecting food we would do a toy drive and try and get as many toys as we can."

He added that as donations started to pour in it allowed them to help more children and 'make this Christmas one to remember'.

Sgt Desmond said: “We both believe Christmas is meant to be with family and friends and just making it a little easier will take the stress off them so all can enjoy it.”

The couple have a long history in public service, with Mrs Desmond working for Carer Oxfordshire and Mr Desmond have been in the army for 22 years, currently based at Dalton Barracks.

They have not been alone in their efforts, however, and to wrap and sort into age categories the mammoth amount of donations, volunteers got together on Sunday at the army base's community centre.

Following this massive effort Mrs Desmond posted on social media: “I just wanted to send a personal thank you from me and Jason for all your help on Sunday with wrapping the gifts and helping to sort into age groups making room and being amazing.

“We are now ready to take them to the food bank on Thursday and Friday to put with the amazing food parcels ready for the families."

She added: “Without your support and help we wouldn’t be able to do this.

"On Christmas morning we can all wake up knowing how we have all helped put a smile on a child’s face this Christmas.”

To celebrate the toy appeal's success, an evening meal is being planned for January to thank supporters and talk about ideas on how to expand the work throughout the year.

Find out more about Abingdon Community Events via the Facebook page.