More than 41,000 gifts have been raised for children and young people in Southampton following the city council’s annual toy appeal.

Southampton City Council have stated it is their biggest toy appeal to date, with gifts being distributed to those in need aged 18 and under.

In a statement, a council spokesperson said: “The 2023 Southampton Toy Appeal was the biggest ever with over 41,000 toys and gifts donated for children and young people in need.

“Special thanks go to every individual, community organisation, charity and business who donated, for without you Christmas would have been a very different experience for so many.”

A wide variety of businesses and personalities got behind the toy appeal, including Christopher Biggins, who starred in the Mayflower panto; McFly; Southampton Football Club – including left-back Ryan Manning; and some cast members from A Christmas Carol.

Westquay Shopping Centre, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, Saints Foundation, MAST Mayflower Studios, Micro-link, DP World, Co-op stores, One Stop shops and GP practices all contributed towards the campaign, with Ikea and Go! Southampton donating 1,000 gifts between them.

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George, a local Year 6 pupil, even arranged a toy collection at his school.

He said: It made me really sad to know there’s so many children in Southampton who wouldn’t get a present on Christmas Day without the appeal.

“I hope that by collecting gifts at my school, it helped put a big smile on lots of faces on Christmas morning.”

Colin McPherson, Toy Appeal Coordinator said: A huge thank you to everyone who helped to make a child or young person’s Christmas special.

“Many children will walk tall as they enter the school gates in the coming days and our young people will know that they are special too.”

Councillor Alex Winning, Cabinet Member for Children and Learning, added: “As the cost of living continues to affect many individuals and families, I am truly amazed by the incredible generosity shown by the community.

Southampton is a very special place and this year’s toy appeal demonstrates just how warm and kind-hearted it really is. Thank you to everyone who donated.”

It took an incredible 582 volunteers from the council, Balfour Beatty, family, and friends to sort and pack the toys and gifts, which were distributed by social workers to children and young people across the city.

In addition to the appeal, local businesses contributed food to make over 100 hampers for the city’s care leavers - young people who have been in care as a child.

The hampers, coordinated by Councillor Jacqui Rayment, enabled care leavers to enjoy small treats that many families have at home during the festive period.