FATHER Christmas will bring joy to almost 10,000 disadvantaged children, thanks to the efforts of kind-hearted volunteers.

The Toy Appeal in Knutsford has achieved a new record this year, providing more presents than ever before, following a huge demand from families in crisis.

Knutsford Guardian:

Toy appeal founders Chris Drake, front left, and Dee, centre not wearing a Santa hat, with the army of volunteers who make this all possible

Red sacks have each been filled with eight gifts chosen specially for babies, children and teenagers who would otherwise not receive a present on Christmas Day.

Childrens gifts are meticulously sorted into age groups

Children's toys are meticulously sorted into age groups

Children with special needs will also receive toys they can appreciate.

Dee Drake, 49, and husband Chris, 47, founded the charity nine years ago and it has become a year long crusade.

The couple start sorting donated books and ordering toys from wholesalers in January and work throughout the year to co-ordinate the colossal operation.

Giant lorries deliver toys

Giant lorries deliver toys

Dee said: "Every child deserves to feel special at Christmas and I am thrilled that despite Covid and all the current pressures, my huge team of volunteers and donors have managed to ensure that 9,600 children will receive a sack of age-appropriate toys and presents.”

In 2013, they aimed to provide toys for 500 children and have so far delivered 22,000 sacks.

Volunteers working for their Duke of Edinburgh award help out

Volunteers working for their Duke of Edinburgh award were among the teams helping out

"Our hope for this year was to help families of 8,000 children," said Dee. "But demand has been so great that we needed to prepare sacks for 9,600 children.

"I am overwhelmed with joy that we have managed this. It is really hard work but I love it."

Referrals are received from schools and agencies who put forward names of children in need across the north west including Knutsford, Northwich, Leftwich and Winsford.

This is just a quarter of the gift sacks filled by volunteers

This is just a quarter of the gift sacks filled by volunteers

Dee said: "We are grateful to so many teachers and social workers, women’s refuges, foodbanks and drop-in centres in the north west who nominate children whom they believe are in such tough circumstances that they would not otherwise receive a visit from Father Christmas."

As soon as requests are confirmed, families are reassured that toys will be provided.

"Parents don't have to worry or get stressed," said Dee. "We take that pressure off them so they can concentrate on paying for food and essentials. We are giving families a lifeline.

"We could not achieve this without the help of a huge number of individuals who give their time throughout the year and all those who make regular donations to allow us to buy the presents, not to mention the companies who donate toys and games to us.

"I pay tribute to Egerton Football Club who allow us to take over their hall to prepare the sacks and the volunteer drivers who deliver all the presents."

There is still time to donate by visiting thetoyappeal.com