HUNTS Post readers have helped to brighten Christmas for youngsters who will be spending the festive season in hospital beds.

SPECIAL VISIT: Santa visits the children of Hinchingbrooke's Holly Ward. Picture: HELEN DRAKE.

HUNTS Post readers have helped to brighten Christmas for youngsters who will be spending the festive season in hospital beds.

Many of you answered our appeal to donate gifts for patients in Holly, the children’s ward at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon.

In fact, we had so many presents that Hunts Post editor Andy Veale and senior reporter Mark Shields asked friends Jeff Dutton, chairman of Huntingdonshire District Council, and Father Christmas to help give them away when they visited the hospital on Friday.

About 100 presents were collected for youngsters on the 25-bed ward. Among the gifts were cuddly toys, games and a talking Buzz Lightyear doll.

Other gifts will be taken to sick Huntingdonshire children who are being cared for at home, and some toys will be kept in the outpatient area as distractions for when youngsters are having injections and blood tests.

Mr Veale said: “Readers have really proved that, no matter what the economic climate, they will always give to a worthy cause. Thank you to all those who gave – your generosity has helped to put a smile on the face of a youngster at Christmas.”

The Hunts Post’s Holly’s Little Helpers appeal was launched at the beginning of November.

Ward manager Chris Luckham described how Christmas could be a busy time for staff, but they always tried to ensure the patients had a special day.

She said: “We will send home as many as we can, but those who are the severest patients will remain here in hospital. We try to make it especially memorable for them. Father Christmas comes round and we provide stockings with presents for the children. It’s very relaxed and we try to make it as festive as we can.”

Hinchingbrooke Hospital play leader Zowie Jubb said Hunts Post readers had made this Christmas extra special.

“We cannot thank you all enough,” she said.

Officers on the American airforce base at RAF Alconbury were so inspired by our campaign they too collected three bags worth of gifts, which they dropped off at the ward also on Friday.

Among their donations were iPod shuffles, Barbie dolls, electronic games, maths and science books, toiletry bags and leather wallets.

Technical sergeant Deneisha Jones co-ordinated the donation at the base.

She said: “Here at the base we started an organisation called Helping Hands about two months ago, because we want to give something back not just to the military community but to the local community as well.

“We had already visited Birmingham Children’s Hospital but, when I saw the article in The Hunts Post, I thought that’s perfect. This is something we can do more locally. We do have a good rapport with the British – for us it is a home from home.”

Workers at Huntingdon car dealers Vindis Group followed up on Monday with a further 25 presents, one for every child on the ward.

Holly Ward was one of four children’s wards in the country to benefit from the festive gifts worth £1,500. Gifts were also given to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, Bedford Hospital and Northamptonshire Hospital.

Among the goodies were dominoes, cards and jigsaw puzzles.

Vindis database and marketing co-ordinator Charlotte Carter said: “We have done quite a bit of charity work this year and we really wanted to do something for the local hospital. We decided to do something for all the hospitals local to our Audi car dealerships.”