timberland kids shoes Didcot Secret Santa Courtney Hughes plans to make her Christmas collection a 365 charity
The former Didcot Girls School pupil, who lives with her mum and dad in Didcot, said: “This year’s appeal won’t officially launch until September, but we have been receiving donations every month since the last Christmas delivery.
“I’ve also been approached by two new charities who would like secret Santa to donate Christmas gifts, which highlights the fact that people are still struggling each year.”
Courtney, who previously worked at the John Radcliffe Hospital and Sobell House Hospice in Oxford, launched her Christmas collection when she was just 13, inspired after by great grandmother being stuck in hospital over Christmas.
When she took her nan a few presents and saw what a difference the gesture made, she realised thousands of other people’s Christmases could also be brightened by a simple gift.
The following year she ran her first secret Santa collection for Helen and Douglas House children’s hospice and Oxford Children’s Hospital, collecting donations through K newsagents in Didcot.
The teenager’s selflessness inspired hundreds of people and the appeal took off, growing every year since.
Last Christmas she was given a record 5,000 donations which she handed out to hospitals, hospices and care homes, not counting food parcels she delivered to the homeless.
But after Christmas, the donations kept flooding in as did the requests.
Courtney’s mum Claire said: “In the summer a social worker came over to tell Courtney about this lady who had been in crisis with her baby and Courtney went down to her lock up and got a load of baby clothes, and that does happen quite a lot.
“It’s just huge, and I say to her ‘let’s just sit down’ and she says ‘no, I will never stop giving to people if someone needs something, no matter when it is, I will help’.”
Courtney has already made her first un seasonal donations to O’Hanlon House homeless shelter in Oxford and Ronald McDonald House at the John Radcliffe.
This Christmas she is planning to deliver gifts to all the places she did last year, plus some extras.
Luckily, her team of volunteers is also now growing year round.
Mrs Hughes added: “Courtney is there to help people and how it affects her is secondary, it doesn’t matter whether it takes four hours or 40. We all chip in, but she’s been doing it that long she’s got it down to a T.”