Christmas for many people should not be mentioned before November, but for festive fundraiser Courtney Hughes it is already time to dust off her sack for the collection of thousands of presents.

Every year the Didcot based organisation Secret Santa 365, launches a present appeal to help give gifts to those who are sick, lonely or vulnerable.

Providing 'Christmas cheer' to those who need support and companionship during illness or crisis is something the 23-year-old has done for ten years.

Secret Santa 365 started in 2012 by then Didcot teenager Courtney. The Oxford Brookes nursing student, has dedicated her life to the festive fundraiser, having been inspired at age 13 by her great-grandmother’s stay at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Unhappy that her grandmother would be spending Christmas away from her family Courtney decided purchased gifts and decorations and bring Christmas to the ward instead.

Herald Series: Courtney Huges BEM, 22, with partner and launch volunteer, Pedro Simas, 23, for the Secret Santa Appeal 2020. Picture by: David Fleming

Now the organisation has helped people all across the county, plus this year it will also help those in Manchester and North London.

This year will be the 10th anniversary of the Secret Santa appeal. Courtney said: “It feels like it has gone really quickly. Looking at all of the things Secret Santa has done over the years is amazing.”

More than 90,000 gifts have been given to people who are sick, lonely or vulnerable since the first appeal in December 2012.

Over the years with the help of the festive organisation's volunteers thousands of care packages for the homeless community, women in refuge and families in need were delivered at Christmas.

Secret Santa has also helped provide essential items for charities like Ronald Mcdonald House and helped sponsor accommodation at Ronald Mcdonald House.

It has also helped furnish five houses for women leaving refuge and host nine tea parties for the elderly.

Herald Series: Secret Santa 2020 food donations.

Homeless outreach projects have been supported by the Didcot festive fundraiser, more than 1,000 food parcels during the pandemic were delivered and more than 500 care packages plus toiletries for front line NHS workers were handed out during the height of the pandemic.

The Secret Santa campaign has also helped give out 350 laptops and digital devises to young learners and older people to help support home learning and keep the most vulnerable members of the community in touch with their loved ones.

Courtney is now readying her sack for this years' Christmas present collection and is calling on the public to donate new toys, books, non perishable food, gifts, vouchers, arts and crafts, knitted blankets and items for babies and the elderly and anything that will help brighten up someone's day.

The festive organisation is also looking for help from volunteers to collect and distribute items and from companies to offer gift drop off zones in Oxford, Kidlington, Wallingford, Witney, Abingdon.

Visit the facebook page @charitysecretsanta for more information.

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