Let’s make sure every child has a present to unwrap

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LESLEY KEATING: A white-knuckle pursuit ending with a lesson in trust

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I remember my sixth birthday present as if it were yesterday. It was February 5, 1979 and a large box sat on the kitchen table, wrapped in brown paper.

Mum said I shook with excitement as I tried desperately to open it.

Slowly a mini multi-storey car park was revealed, with a spiral roadway the likes of which the Isle of Wight had never seen before.

Wow, I thought, this is like the Tricorn Centre!

We were by no means a well-off family. We struggled to make ends meet, our house had no central heating or telephone and the main source of warmth was from a coal-fired Aga in the kitchen.

Still, I was fed, had a proper school uniform and plenty of happy memories growing up.

What is hard to believe is that in Portsmouth, 11,000 children live in poverty, miss a daily meal, have no heating or school uniform to wear.

It’s another 6,000 in Havant and even more when you add those in Fareham and Gosport.

At the radio station, our hearts broke when we heard about the type of Christmas a child living in poverty can expect.

A meal donated from a food bank, perhaps beans on toast, was the highlight.

Wrapped up in layers of secondhand clothes (if they were lucky) to keep warm, they would have nothing to open on the big day.

Can you imagine the pain on returning to school and being asked the question ‘what did you get for Christmas?’

So for the past three years, we’ve been running our Mission Christmas campaign. The idea is simple. Donate a toy we can give to a child living in poverty.

We then make sure they arrive as close to the day as possible as we’ve heard very sad stories of gifts being pawned.

Once again we’ll be hosting our shows from supermarkets all over the area to spread the word and are delighted The News are involved this year.

Maybe you could donate a gift, or suggest at work that you all bring one in.

We want 54,000 toys this year, so no child here in the south has nothing to open on Christmas Day.

Wouldn’t that be great?