Dedicated volunteers are trying to ensure no child goes without a present in Burgess Hill this Christmas.
Christmas Wishes, founded by Petrina Wickens, has been collecting toys and gifts since October to ‘put smiles on children’s faces’ on Christmas Day.
Petrina said: “This year we’ve collected a lot more than last year. 90% of it has been brand new. People have been so generous.”
“Our aim is to put smiles on children’s faces on Christmas Day and release some stress for the parents.”
The collection ended this week before the annual Christmas party on Sunday (December 21).
Tesco in Burgess Hill, St Wilfrid’s Catholic Church, Southway Primary School and Windmill School in Hassocks have all helped to collect presents for those who might not otherwise receive any.
Jo Covey, community champion at Tesco Burgess Hill, helped to co-ordinate the collection. She said: “I contacted Petrina to ask about collection points and she said there wasn’t one. I thought that was a shame so I organised one.
“We had a really good response - it’s great to help children in the local area.”
Around 400 presents have been collected for the 23 families nominated to attend the party this Sunday. A team of volunteers have helped Petrina with organisation and fundraising throughout the year.
Burgess Hill Mascots are providing characters from Disney’s Frozen to greet children. Santa Claus and helpers will give out presents, whilst a Punch and Judy, a magician and a face painter donated by Burgess Hill Youth will be on hand to entertain. Anthony Harris, of Bridgers Farm Turkeys, has donated a turkey to each family who will also receive a Christmas hamper to ensure they don’t go hungry on Christmas Day.
Petrina said: “There’s been a lot of extra problems with people losing their jobs this year. People won’t get their benefits through before Christmas.”
Petrina has faced problems of her own in the past. Last year she underwent open heart surgery and in January her husband was attacked, leaving him with a brain injury.
“The charity keeps me busy. My own problems help me understand what other people are going through,” she added.