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KIND-hearted readers have helped make this year's Times series' Giving Tree Appeal a record-breaking success.

More than 1,000 gifts flooded in — more than double last year's figure — which will put smiles on the faces of needy children across the district.

Generous readers rushed to collect cards from special trees which gave the name and age of a child and details of the present he or she wanted.

Many of the youngsters had simply asked for gifts they could give to their parents.

Wokingham Times promotions manager Sandy Bandy, who co-ordinated the appeal, said: "Once again it has been a tremendous success.

"People are really generous and make such an effort to buy the gift the children actually want.

"We have exceeded our target of over 1,000 toys which means that the many needy children in our area will have a happier Christmas.

"This year it was really great to have another tree at Bracknell because our Bracknell readers have been so supportive.

"Inevitably there are tags that weren't taken from the trees but thanks to the generous cash donations from the Masonic Centre and Cwm Male Choir, all the children will receive gifts this year."

John Morris, a member of the Masonic Centre, said: "I can't emphasise enough how much pleasure it has brought me just knowing I have directly helped a needy child this Christmas."

This year's appeal was launched by the Times in Wokingham on November 16 and in Bracknell two days later to help Berkshire Women's Aid, Home Start, Barnardos, and other local charities.

Hundreds of people took tags from special giving trees around the area.

They were set up in the Wokingham Times and Wokingham District Council offices, the Newbury Building Society in Wokingham, Sindlesham Court Masonic Hall, Nirvana Spa and Pulse 8 Health Club, and Tescos in Wokingham and Bracknell.

Each tag contained gift requests from children who might otherwise go without this Christmas.

Over the five-week appeal, Giving Trees were also visited by local dignitaries including the town's MP John Redwood in support of our campaign.

The Giving Tree at Tesco in Wokingham was officially opened by 12-year-old Nick Hoult, from Sindlesham, who co-starred with Hugh Grant in the blockbuster film About a Boy.

He also unwrapped the first gift tag and read out the request — a football and not, as the young film star joked, "a Ferrari F50".

Among those who attended the Bracknell launch at the Martins Heron branch of Tesco was Cllr Anne Haydon, Children and Young People's Champion for Bracknell Forest, mayor of Bracknell Forest, Cllr Dorothy Hayes, and Pat Roper of Berkshire Women's Aid.

Ex-racing driver Jonny Mowlem visited Nirvana Spa in Sindlesham to give his support to the appeal.

He presented a model of the Porsche he drives to Simon Brown, director of Nirvana Spa, who accepted it on behalf of the appeal.

Two trainee guide dogs and their walkers from Wokingham Guide Dogs for the Blind Centre in Barkham Road, also pledged their support to the Giving Tree.

Bertie, a four-month-old black Labrador puppy with walker Ann Bradford and Valiant, an 18-month-old golden retriever walked by fund-raiser Jacqui Chapman, brought gifts to the Times office in Denmark Street at the end of November.

Many of the presents will go to Barnardos High Close School, in Wiltshire Road, Wokingham, which is a school for young people who have had very difficult life experiences and have previously had unsettled school lives.

The school aims to give them good quality, social and educational experiences.

Gill McKernan, learning support assistant at High Close School, said: "The givers have been more than generous.

"I think the quality of the presents has been outstanding.

"A big thank you must go to the Times on behalf of staff and children at Barnardos. "The generosity of the Giving Tree will ensure the children have a memorable Christmas."

Berkshire Women's Aid (BWA) is another beneficiary of the Giving Tree Appeal and provides confidential support, information and refuge accommodation for women and children affected by domestic violence.

BWA aims to enable any woman to live free from abuse or fear at home or in a relationship.

BWA offers someone to talk to and somewhere to stay 24-hours a day. Its 24-hour helpline is (0118) 9504003.

Pat Roper, from BWA, said: "We have been overwhelmed as usual by everyone's generosity.

"We are now looking forward to a great Christmas and would like to say a big thank you to all the Times readers and we wish them all a Happy Christmas."

Home Start supports families who have at least one child under five who are experiencing some sort of difficulties in their lives.

For more information contact them on (0118) 979 7191.

Microsoft launched a competition this year to challenge companies to raise the most money for the appeal.

The winner will be announced in the new year when the company will present £1,000 worth of Microsoft vouchers to a school or charity of their choice.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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