AN annual Christmas toy appeal is back and your help is needed to make it a success.

The Christmas Toys and Teens Appeal organised by Reading Family Aid will be slightly different this year due to the pandemic.

In order to protect volunteers, the charity has decided to ask supporters to donate money instead of gifts.

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This money will be used to buy new Christmas presents for disadvantaged children in Reading, and delivered directly to the organisations that help them.

The charity said in the first three weeks of UK ‘lockdown’ it’s estimated a quarter of all households in the UK had lost either a substantial part, or all of their earned income as a result of Covid-19.

This has plunged many more Reading families into poverty.

Out of the organisations the charity supports, nearly all are asking for more presents this year as families struggle to cope, relying on food banks and having to choose between heating or a gift for their children at Christmas.

But the Toys and Teens Appeal is here to help.

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Sponsored by The Chronicle and organised by Reading Family Aid, the appeal is raising funds this year to buy new presents suitable for ages 0 – 16, to give to disadvantaged Reading families at Christmas time.

The project was launched today (Thursday, October 22) by the Mayor of Reading, Cllr. David Stevens.

He said: “It’s my pleasure to support the Reading Family Aid Toys appeal 2020 and I’d encourage everyone to take part and show how generous our community can be.

"Although it may be surprising and upsetting to think that we have children in Reading who are living in poverty, we can all do this small thing to help put a smile on the faces of those young people who may not get any Christmas presents if it weren’t for this appeal."

The appeal has a profound effect on families and children who receive these gifts each year.

One such recipient, Paige, remembers the difference the appeal made to her when she was younger.

She said: “My mum was a single parent, she scrimped and scraped and did the very best she could for us in the circumstances she was facing.

"One year, we were living in a women’s and children’s haven after moving out from [my mum’s] abusive partner.

"We received a Christmas box and some nice toiletries/pjs etc.

"It was the gesture more than anything that meant the most."

She explained: “Whilst presents are not the be all and end all at Christmas, to a child they mean a great deal.

"Nobody wants to be that child that goes back to school after the Christmas holidays and has to listen to their friends talk about all the presents they received, whilst they didn't.

"It can make you feel so inferior and unconfident.

"Imagine seeing your own children with nothing to open on Christmas morning.

"Christmas is all about love, happiness and family, and for some children this might be the only gift they receive this year.

"For those with little else, this Christmas present could be everything.”

In 2019, the Toys and Teens Appeal delivered gifts to more than 2,000 disadvantaged children from 895 families in time for Christmas.

This year, please consider donating to the cause.

The fundraising page will remain open until December 4, after which the funds will be used to buy presents that will be sent directly to organisations and distributed to deprived children across Reading. There will be no donation points open this year as the charity is unable to accept any gifts to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The charity thanked its sponsors: Berkshire Freemasons, Big Yellow and Caversham Vehicle Hire.

Please click here to visit the Fund Me crowdfunding page to donate.