More than 41,000 gifts have been donated for children across the city in Southampton City Council's toy appeal.

Representatives of businesses, schoolchildren, and fellow councillors were recognised at an event at Southampton City Art Gallery that saw the 2023 top appeal ‘the biggest ever’ in its 35-year history.

Certificates signed by the Lord Mayor were awarded to the appeal’s contributors as bouquets of flowers were also handed out to those who went the extra mile.

Daily Echo:

Colin McPherson, toy appeal coordinator, told the Echo: “It makes you so proud to be involved and last year for the first time I had companies reaching out to me to see how they could get involved, rather than me always having to reach out to them which is nice.

“Royal Mail donated £1,000 worth of toys alone – we raised around 41,000 gifts in all with some costing people as much as £15 a toy, which is quite a lot given the cost-of-living crisis, but in a way, I suppose it brings everyone together and it was our best ever.”

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Daily Echo:

He added: “It’s great that kids can head back to school and be excited to tell their friends what they got for Christmas, rather than worrying because they know they didn’t receive anything.”

Businesses including Asda, Tesco, and the Co-op all donated to the appeal, with the likes of Solent University, Hampshire Police, and NHS Hampshire also getting involved in the scheme.

Cllr Jacqui Rayment helped make 163 hampers – filled with toys and sweets – for children to open on Christmas Day, calling it ‘an absolute privilege’ to contribute to the annual scheme.

Daily Echo:

Cllr Winning, Cabinet Member for Children and Learning told the Echo the toy appeal makes a huge difference to children across the city.

He said: “The work that’s been done to get the best part of 40,000 toys distributed to young people all over the city is phenomenal.

Daily Echo:

“I think we always talk about making a difference to children’s lives – especially children that are in need – and just something small, like being able to open a present on Christmas day, which a lot of people think of is the norm but sadly it isn’t, makes a difference to those kids lives.

“Although the gift itself might be something that’s quite short-term, it will create a memory for life.”