Toy Appeal: Co-founders explain how it’s as vital now as it was four decades ago

Colin and his children James and Angela and Recorder staff and youngsters in a 1987 swim

Colin and his children James and Angela and Recorder staff and youngsters in a 1987 swim - Credit: Colin Grainger

Toy Appeal founders Colin Grainger and Kevin Jenkins on how they were inspired to launch it and why donations and support from readers are still as important as ever.

Kevin Jenkins at an early Toy Appeal collection

Kevin Jenkins at an early Toy Appeal collection - Credit: Richard McKeever

The Community Links and Newham Recorder Christmas Toy Appeal has been part of my life for 40 years now.

It was all those years ago that I met with co-founder and now life president of Community Links, Kevin Jenkins, who explained the need for such a campaign.

Their idea was that the number of needy youngsters was growing and getting the community to donate around 500 toys would provide a special treat. As a reporter, I was picked as the man to lead the campaign.

This special appeal soon captured the hearts of the community. The following year the target was 1,000 and as the years went by the need grew and last year it topped 16,000 toys. The appeal is as vital today as it was all those years ago. Despite the prosperity of some, many people live below the poverty line. And the special help Recorder readers give is vital. It is an appeal at the heart of all that is good in the community.

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Hundreds of celebrities have taken part in the campaign and even the Royal household back it with a donation (though we aren’t allowed to say who).

Businesses, organisations, pubs, clubs and groups all do their bit. But it is the individuals who are so important, and reflect the spirit that exists in one of the most diverse communities on the planet.

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I am honoured to be a patron of the appeal and I urge everyone who can to give a toy because together we can fill those empty sacks.

I am doing my annual sponsored swim to raise funds for the appeal. For the last 40 years I have managed 50 lengths. This year I aim to complete it at Central Park pool Romford sometime before the quiz night at Links on December 1. If you are interested in making a donation you can drop it off to Kevin Jenkins at Arc In The Park in Hermit Road, Canning Town or you can give online at my crowdfunding page.

Any money raised will be turned instantly into new toys.

There are children in Newham who will be waking up on Christmas morning to an empty Christmas stocking and the prospect of another day just the same as every other – there are probably children like this on your street.

With your help, we can ensure that no child referred to the appeal this year wakes up to an empty stocking on this special day for all children.

The children helped will be living in poverty and experiencing a bespoke set of problems and difficulties. At Christmas, problems sadly do not go away, nor do low wages or benefits rise to meet the additional costs associated with Christmas.

Together we can make a difference for each child. We can give them both a Christmas stocking and the knowledge that the local community cares too.

Each gift donated brings us one step closer to our 2016 target of 18,000 gifts – please give special consideration to helping your local appeal and help us to make a real difference again this year like the Recorder readers have helped us to do for the past 38 years.

Thank you for considering helping this year.

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