Secret Santa founder Courtney Hughes has been helping to spread festive cheer for seven years and now does so all year round
Didcot’s very own Secret Santa has come a long way since it was founded in 2012 going from an idea to help those alone at Christmas to becoming the year round fundraiser it is now.
And behind it all is Courtney Hughes. She was inspired by her grandmother Elsie who was taken ill over the festive period to buy gifts and decorations to take to the ward she was in.
But the caring, then just 13-year-old, wasn’t just touched by her gran but the others in hospital with her who were isolated and alone. Courtney lost her beloved gran in March 2013 but went on to set up Charity Secret Santa in her memory.
With a little help, she soon collected 250 gifts to give to elderly people on the wards at the John Radcliffe. That amazing effort has now grown and over the years more than 50,000 gifts have been given to the elderly, sick, lonely and vulnerable in our community.
And last month her hard work was recognised when she was officially awarded the British Empire Medal as given in The Queen’s birthday honours earlier in the year. The 21-year-old was honoured for services to older and vulnerable people in Oxfordshire.
But not content with just helping those in need at Christmas, the Secret Santa appeal is now Secret Santa 365 with tea parties and community outreach projects throughout the year to aid the elderly and needy.
Courtney’s activities now also support women’s refuges by supplying furniture and food and care packages throughout the year.
This year’s appeal was launched on 1st September and already she has been overwhelmed with the amount of toys and gifts being donated. She is now fully engulfed in sorting the donations, packing and arranging drop offs – all while working full-time as a senior nursing assistant at the John Radcliffe.
Launching this year’s appeal, she said: “It is lovely – the appeal has become like a child to me.”
Secret Santa 365 helps a wide variety of charities including among others SSNAP supporting sick newborn babies and their parents, Headway Oxfordshire which works to raise awareness of brain injuries, Helen & Douglas House providing hospice care for children, Homeless Oxfordshire, Style Acre providing support for people with learning disabilities and Be Free YC improving the lives and well being of young carers.
To help with Secret Santa 2019, you can drop gifts off at Cornerstone, SOHA, The Marlborough Club, Boundary Park GWP, The Beacon in Wantage at Sainsbury’s in Didcot on 7th December and at The Giving Tree at Berro Lounge in the Orchard Centre among other venues.