HUNTS Post readers have helped to bring a smile to the faces of young patients and their families at Hinchingbrooke Hospital at Christmas for a second year.

There were smiles and in some cases tears of joy during Father Christmas' visit to the children's ward at Hinchingbrooke Hospital for the Hunts Post's Holly's Little Helpers campaign last week.

For father Kevin Hampton of Great Staughton it was a particularly moving moment. His daughter Anita had been asleep for four days but awoke just in time to see the great man himself arrive and present her with a gift.

Mr Hampton said: "It's the first time I've seen her happy in four days. What wonderful timing that she should wake up and the first thing she sees is Father Christmas."

Two year old Ruby Shaw was so excited about her gift she couldn't wait til Christmas Day but immediately ripped open the wrapping paper, and gave the cuddly bear inside a special hug.

Meanwhile there were some little ones who were too young or too unwell to enjoy their gifts immediately. Jessica Upton is only five weeks old but mum Elizabeth seemed very happy with the pink and white toy bear she was given for her daughter by one generous reader.

Around 150 gifts have been donated for the Holly Ward through the Hunts Post's appeal - up on last year's total of 100, despite the ongoing economic crisis.

Presents ranged from colouring books and games to cuddly toys and toiletries. Some will remain in the 25-bed ward and others will be given to young people with long-term and life-long illnesses who will be spending Christmas at home.

Hunts Post content editor Gail Anderson who helped to hand out the presents said: "It was really moving watching these children, some of whom are very unwell, smile when they received their gifts.

"And equally you could see it meant a lot to their parents. It is hard enough when your child is unwell at any time of year, but particularly at this time of year.

"I just want to thank all our readers who have been so generous. When most households are cutting back on their Christmas giving, it's amazing that people have still remembered families who are less fortunate."

Play leader Clair Day said: "We rely on donations to make Christmas special for our patients. Santa's visit really made their Christmas."

nMore than 70 children who are former patients of the ward or suffer with long-term illnesses were invited to a Christmas party at Great Stukeley Hall.

Singing and dancing was provided by duo Jingle Bells. There were also party games and craft activities provided. The party was funded by children's charity Dreamdrops and the Starlight Foundation.