A bighearted teen who launched her own secret Santa scheme for local charities has collected a staggering 5,000 presents this Christmas.
Compassionate Courtney Hughes, 18, who has ME and occasionally uses walking aids and a wheelchair, started her festive collection for sick the and needy five years ago.
She appealed to local people to donate toys, books and food and this year has exceeded all expectations and been innundated with gifts.
Secure collection points were set up at local supermarkets, a hospital, and other public places for people to drop off their donations.
More than 5,000 have been handed in this year which were wrapped by Courtney and a team of 40 volunteers at a marathon session last weekend.
Courtney, who is helped by sister Megan, 11, will start distributing them around her hometown of Didcot, Oxon., today (Thur) from a giant van.
Among the places they will visit are a care home, homeless shelter and specialist baby unit.
Courtney, a nursing assistant at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, said: “We give presents to tiny babies all the way through to people that are over 100-years-old.
“I make a huge list of everything and anything that can help them out.
“It’s really really great how many people it’s benefiting over Christmas.”
She added: “My family have been really supportive.
“It’s really quite emotional when we give out the presents to everyone, there’s always a few tears as we give out the presents.
“Everyone says the secret Santa has helped them and the presents have made a real difference.”
Lots of mince pies and chocolates and an amateur Frank Sinatra singer, helped forty volunteers through a huge gift-wrapping marathon on Sunday.
Courtney added: “People from all over Didcot help with the appeal, people bring their children along as it’s really nice for them in the lead up to Christmas.
“We managed to wrap around 3,000 presents on Sunday, we had lots of chocolates and mince pies to keep us going.
“There was a Frank Sinatra singer and a children’s choir which kept us in the festive spirit.
“It was really nice to see the community come together – it encouraged elderly people to come out for a day of fun.”
The teen will also be delivering surprise gifts to SNAP, a special needs and parents charity, as well as the Ronald McDonald House in Oxford.
Courtney added: “I set up the charity in memory of my Great Grandma who spent her final Christmas in hospital and I decided to take Christmas to her on the ward.”
Proud mum, Claire Hughes, 38, said: “She’s always so determined and nothing will hold her back.
“She has ME and has been using a wheelchair to get around, but she won’t give up.
“For Courtney, it’s not just about making sure everyone has a present, it’s just as much about spending time with vulnerable people and making sure they’re okay.
“The level of support she has received has been outstanding, she’s had presents from all around Didcot and from America and Germany too.”
Courtney now hopes to expand her Charity Secret Santa Oxfordshire on a national scale next year by getting all secondary schools involved in donations.
Find out how to donate to Courtney’s charity secret Santa here: https://www.facebook.com/charitysecretsanta/?pnref=story