A MOTHER of three has opened up about dreading Christmas as the Chronicle today launches a toy collection campaign to help struggling families.

With one in six children in Reading living in poverty, this week we are calling on the community to dig deep and donate toys, gifts or cash to Reading Family Aid’s Toys & Teens appeal 2023.

Kind-hearted readers will be able to drop off donations at 28 points around the town.

The presents will be handed out to thousands of disadvantaged children living in poverty on Christmas Day.

Last year, more than 3,000 youngsters received presents.

Chronicle editor Katie French said: “We are delighted to be supporting this campaign once again this year.

“Reading Family Aid does a wonderful job every year, collecting toys for needy children and their families.

“This year, we really want to get behind the appeal and do everything we can at the Chronicle to support its efforts to make sure that as many families in our area as possible get a Christmas to remember.”

One mum of three, who has received donations in previous years, said it meant the world to her.

She said: “I was married with three little girls but now my husband is in prison for attacking us. So for several years I have been a single mum with three girls, now all over 10.

She continued: “Even though this year I have a part time job things are still hard. The more I work, the less benefits I get and so the more my bills go up. For example my council tax - I lose benefits because I am working so I have to pay more of it. I have to pay travel expenses to get to work.

So while she is working, she said she’s not any better off, saying: “And food is so expensive I can barely afford to feed and clothe us all never mind pay for any extras like my daughters wanting to go to the cinema and out with friends.”

Looking ahead to Christmas, she said the idea filled her with dread.

“I dread Christmas with all the pressure of what children want and what other children get,” she admitted.

“Reading Family Aid has helped me for a several years with presents for my girls. Without their help I would really struggle at Christmas,” she said.

Urging the residents of Reading to help, she continued: “Any extra help I can get really makes a massive difference. Please donate to the Toys and Teens Appeal so that families like mine can have a nice Christmas and remove some of the stress of it all. Thank you”.

Throwing his weight behind the campaign, the Mayor of Reading Tony Page said: “We have many families and children in the borough facing very tough times. Families are living in over crowded, damp conditions. The need for support at Christmas is acute and that’s why the Toys and Teens Appeal is so important.

“I would urge people to consider the scenario where you are forced to say to your child that they are not going to get any presents this year.

“There’s a real danger within the borough that thousands of children will go without any presents at Christmas without your support.”

Each Christmas, the Toys and Teens Appeal helps ensure that children who would not otherwise receive a single present, have something to open on Christmas morning.

Last year, more than 3,000 children across Reading and the wider area received a gift at Christmas, through the generous donations of Chronicle readers and supporters.

To support the campaign you can donate a gift to any of the drop off points, see right.

Or you could organise a gift collection at work or school, email olivia.mowl@newsquest.co.uk.

If you cannot donate a physical gift, the appeal also has an online GoFundMe page to help buy new presents for age groups that receive less donations each year, visit https://t.ly/3Bypw.

Anything you give will make a child so happy this Christmas. Thank you.