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Shropshire Star's toy appeal bringing Christmas joy to hundreds of children

By Mark Andrews | Features | Published:

Hundreds of children will get the Christmas they deserve thanks to the generosity of Shropshire Star readers.

The fifth Shropshire Star and Storage King Christmas Toy Appeal saw 1,000 gifts shared out between five different groups that work with children of all ages who might otherwise find the festive season a difficult time of year.

Children being treated for cancer, youngsters suffering from cerebral palsy, and those who have to care for disabled relatives will be among those who will benefit from this year's appeal.

Your generous donations were presented to representatives from Hope House Children's Hospice, The Harry Johnson Trust, The Movement Centre, Telford Young Carers, and the children's ward at Princess Royal Hospital.

This year's appeal was also supported by Rotherwood Healthcare, which collected more than 100 toys for the appeal, and Pure Gym in Telford which brought in a further 50.

The Storage King and Shropshire Star Toy Appeal is now in its fifth year

A collection among staff at Telford-based Moba UK also raised £380 which was used to buy 62 gifts for the appeal, while Saputo Dairy UK donated 25 items. The Lord Hill Hotel in Shrewsbury donated £500 worth of toys.

Five-year-old Leah Willetts also raised £52 for the appeal, which she spent on toys.

Her mother, Bonnie Bradley, said Leah had spent her first Christmas in the children's ward at Telford's Princess Royal Hospital while being treated for meningitis, and received Christmas gifts during her stay.

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To raise the money, Leah bought some second-hand dolls and opened a pop-up shop.

"The following Sunday we had a fun shopping trip choosing presents for various aged girls and boys," said Bonnie. "We hope this will brighten someone’s Christmas morning and provide some fun."

Leah Willets, five, raised £52

Readers were extremely generous for this year's appeal, with a number of expensive items donated. Among them were two Hornby train sets, a ride-on car, as well as Lego, electronic toys and Star Wars merchandise.

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Dozens of hand-knitted cuddly toys made by 81-year-old Nancy Bytheway from Wellington also went to The Harry Johnson Trust.

Sue Last, of Telford Young Carers, said she was overwhelmed by the generosity of people who had supported the appeal.

The charity provides support for youngsters who have to care for a loved one who is living with an illness or disability.

"It's important because there's so much going on at this time of year, and some of these children can be quite socially isolated," said Sue.

"Some of their parents can be quite severely disabled. It's just a special time of year, and being able to give them these presents allows the kids to be kids, rather than carers."

Andy Jackson from Storage King helps Vicky Handbury Madin from The Movement centre as she collects donations from this year's toy appeal

Lisa Harries, of the children's ward at Princess Royal Hospital, said the appeal meant that every child who was in hospital over Christmas Day would get a present.

"It's something we're only able to do because of this.

It's important because the younger children wonder whether Father Christmas will be able to find them," she said.

"We try to make sure it's only the really poorly children who are in hospital on Christmas Day, we try to send the others home if there is any way we can.

"It's a difficult time for them, but we really try to create as friendly and happy atmosphere as possible."

She said some of the toys would also be kept in the hospital ward for the children to play with throughout the year.

Carol Jones, Chelsie Hammond and Susan Holdway from The Rotherwood Healthcare Group, which collected more than 100 toys for this year's appeal, with Vicky Handbury-Madin of The Movement Centre

The Harry Johnson Trust was founded by Sally Johnson and her husband Stephen in memory of their son Harry, who died from a rare form of cancer at the age of seven.

The charity provides support for children across Shropshire who are being treated for cancer, and Sally said the appeal brought so much joy to the youngsters.

"I'm overwhelmed by how generous everybody has been," she said.

"The things people have provided is incredible, we have got things for children of all ages right from the little ones to the teenagers, for girls and boys, games, and cuddly toys."

She said her own experience of looking after Harry and his brother, Eric, made her realise what a difficult time Christmas could be.

Rachel Lewis from Hope House Hospice pictured with Andy Jackson and Tim Drew from Storage King as she collects donations from this year's toy appeal

"We were lucky enough to have friends and family who bought things for Harry and his brother Eric, and it is so important that the children have presents at this time of year.

"When children are undergoing treatment, as usually at least one parent has to give up work to look after them.

"It is also very difficult for the brothers and sisters, because they are upset too.

"For every child to have a present is a huge thing for them, even if it is only something small. It shows that other people are thinking about them."

Vicky Handbury-Madin, chief executive of The Movement Centre which provides life-changing therapies for children with cerebral palsy and other mobility-related conditions, was overjoyed with the number of toys received.

Dawn Walder and Lisa Harries from The Princess Royal Hospital children's ward, along with Sue Last of Telford Young Carers and Sally Johnson from The Harry Johnson Trust as they collect donations from this year's Shropshire Star and Storage King Christmas Toy Appeal

She was particularly pleased with the sensory toys which react to touch.

"This gives us the chance to give them something extra special," she said.

"These toys will not only help the children with their therapy, but it is also a really nice treat for them."

Rachel Lewis of Hope House, thanked readers for their generosity.

"It amazes me every year how generous people are," she said.

"If you have got a seriously ill child, it can be a really difficult time, and also if your child has lost a brother or sister, it is really upsetting for them.

"It's so important to be able to give them presents."

Recipients:

The Harry Johnson Trust - The trust was set up by Sally and Stephen Johnson in 2014 in memory of their son Harry, who died from a rare form of cancer at the age of seven. It provides a wide range of support for children being treated for cancer at the children's oncology ward at Telford's Princess Royal Hospital. It offers treats, holidays, and hampers of essentials to help the children and their families during the first few days in hospital.

Princess Royal Hospital children's ward - The ward is the main centre which treats children from across Shropshire and Mid Wales. The donations will ensure that every child in hospital on Christmas Day will get a present, and they will also be used for children to play with during their stay on the ward.

The Movement Centre - Based at the Robert Johnson and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, in Gobowen, the charity provides life-changing therapies for children with cerebral palsy and other conditions which impede their movement. In some cases the treatment can help children walk for the first time. Chief executive Vicky Handbury-Madin said some of the toys can help with the therapy by helping children to explore their ability to move.

Hope House Children's Hospice - Based in Morda, near Oswestry, the hospice provides support for more than 300 children across Shropshire and Mid Wales. The children all have life-limiting illnesses, and are not expected to see adulthood. The toys will be given to the children, as well as their brothers and sisters, including those who have been bereaved.

Telford Young Carers - This charity provides support to youngsters who have to care for a loved one who is living with a serious illness or disability, usually a parent. The toys will be given to the young carers to give them the type of Christmas most children take for granted.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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