Caroline Verdon: We need your support for Mission Christmas appeal

Launch of Mission Christmas, the Christmas present appeal with Radio Aire and B&M.'8 November 2018.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Launch of Mission Christmas, the Christmas present appeal with Radio Aire and B&M.'8 November 2018. Picture Bruce Rollinson
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We need your help. Every year, our charity Cash for Kids organises ‘Mission Christmas’ which is our bid to make sure that every child in Leeds wakes up with a present on Christmas morning.

Last year your donations of gifts meant that over 25,000 children were given a present, many of whom would otherwise have gone without. This year, we need even more and we are struggling. It’s easy to walk around the Victoria Quarter and think we live in an affluent city but as with everywhere, it’s a place with two stories to tell.

Leeds City Council published a Poverty Fact Book in August which stated that over 148,000 people living here, in our city, are living in absolute poverty. The official definition of absolute poverty is “a condition characterised by severe depravation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information,” 148,000 people living in those conditions. Here, in Leeds. These aren’t faceless people on our TV screens from a Third World country many miles away, these are 148,000 of our neighbours, friends and colleagues. It’s no wonder each year the number of people needing a gift through Mission Christmas increases.

Headteachers have told us on more than one occasion of multiple pupils in Leeds who don’t have a bed but who instead sleep on a hard floor in one room with the rest of their family. We’ve heard first hand from people who have had to make the choice between heating and eating. Leeds North and West Foodbank has reported supplying over 9.5,000 emergency three day food supplies for the year ending April 2018. People we know are struggling on a daily basis.

I’m lucky, my childhood was great in so many ways and Christmas has always been a magical time full of crackling fires, Christmas carols, stockings and so much food on Christmas Day that a mid-afternoon sleep was mandatory.

As a parent, I want my child to have the same experience and I cannot imagine the guilt you must feel for not being able to provide that. With some much emphasis put on father Christmas only visiting ‘good boys and girls’ it is beyond heartbreaking to think of children thinking they are ‘bad’ and that’s why Father Christmas has missed them out or perhaps even worse, being denied the luxury of being able to be a child and instead being brutally aware of money worries, health worries and safety worries. If as individuals we can help take that pressure off of a parent and help create that magic for a child for one day, shouldn’t we? If there is any way you are able to help us fulfil our record number of present requests for children living in our community then please please do get involved.

We’re asking people to donate a new unwrapped gift and drop it off at one of our collection points. Every B&M, Wickes, Bensons for Beds, Harveys furniture and Tesco in West Yorkshire along with Crown Point Shopping Park and Hytal Kitchens in Morley are all drop off points – and that’s just the start, the complete list can be found at You can also visit us at Mission HQ to drop your gift off directly which this year is The Store Room, Millshaw, Leeds. You have until December 18 to get any presents you feel able to donate to us so we can make sure they go out to those in need. We have already completely run out of gifts for toddlers aged 18months – three years (educational/learning toys are great!) and boys aged 9-18 (toiletries/books/scarves/hats/gloves/ board games etc) so any help there would be much appreciated. Alternatively we also take cash donations online and we’ll go out and shop on your behalf, you can donate as much or as little as you can afford. Plus you can text AIRE to 70808 to donate £5 too! To some, £5 is a lot, too much to spare at this time of year and we understand that but to others it’s a couple of Starbucks coffees or a glass of wine less at the weekend.

We really are desperate for more support. This isn’t a game where we have a secret cupboard full of gifts or a business ready to swoop in and save the day, we really are struggling and we really do need your help. Everything counts and there are just 12 days to go to make this Christmas magical for children across West Yorkshire.

Christmas jumper day

Another way you can get involved with Mission Christmas is by having a Christmas Jumper Day.

You get to help out and you get an excuse to pop on your festive knitwear – it’s perfect! We’re asking you to get involved so grab your colleagues, family and friends, take £1 from each of them and get them to wear their best Christmas get-up. Personally I think it’s even better when it’s grumpy people wearing novelty jumpers. My husband hates festive clothing. He argues that its pointless buying something you can only wear for one month of the year whereas I argue you wear it one month a year for multiple years.

He questioned when the last time was that I fitted into the clothes I wore the same time the previous year and I flicked the wrapper of my ‘Big Purple One’ at him. Then I got him back big time. Asda at Killingbeck has been selling matching father/son clothes so I bought a flashing Rudolph top for our three year old which says “rebel without a Claus” on the front and picked one up for the Hubster at the same time. I knew he’d hate it but he’d also never be able to refuse our son’s requests.

The memory of his miserable face in this cheery Christmas top will have me smiling for life. It was made all the better for me when a child at nursery said to our son “I like your Grandad’s t-shirt”. Hah! Grandad!

All that hilarity whilst doing your bit for charity – what’s not to love? has the details if you fancy getting involved too.

Christmas cracker jokes

I love a good Christmas cracker joke, but by good, I mean groan worthy.

I also viewing the reading of Christmas cracker jokes as a competition. If you read out both lines without allowing people to guess the answers you’re doing it wrong!

I like a scoreboard with points for who guesses a right answer with the winner getting the first go at seconds for Christmas lunch.

According to those in the know, the greatest Christmas craker joke, as revealed this week, is: “Who hides in a bakery at Christmas?A mince spy!” It is good, you have to admit!

There was one joke that I completely disagreed with that made the top three though and that was: “What’s a horse’s favourite TV show? NEIGHbours”.

I don’t like it because it should be everyone’s favourite TV show (yes it is still running, yes Dr Karl Kennedy is still in it and yes, it is amazing).

Caroline Verdon is one half of the breakfast show at Radio Aire. You can hear Caroline and Ant between 6-10am every weekday morning.