A FESTIVE appeal providing gifts to disadvantaged children across the Bradford district and beyond has enjoyed a record-breaking year with more than 4,500 donations.

Bradford Junior Chamber International's (JCI) Secret Santa Appeal, which originally began as the Christmas Tree Appeal in 1989, has raised the equivalent of more than £300,000 over the last decade alone.

The appeal has collected an average of about 3,500 gifts in recent years, but its 26th annual total has surpassed all previous records with an astonishing 4,557 presents now ready to be distributed across Bradford, Kirklees, and Calderdale on Christmas Day.

Every year a host of different organisations, schools, and companies get involved to provide gifts, sponsorship, volunteers, storage, and promotion, as well as running mini-appeals in their own workplaces.

The appeal issues thousands of gift tags with the age and gender of children nominated by social services and children's charities.

The main sponsor of this year's appeal was The Kirkgate Centre in Bradford, where it was officially launched last month with the help of the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Joanne Dodds.

Catherine Riley, manager at the centre, said at the time she had been delighted that the appeal was "coming home", and said she was hoping for a bumper year in terms of donations.

Michelle Pemberton, JCI Bradford's community director, said the record-breaking appeal had once again proved to be very close to many Bradfordian's hearts.

"It's been an incredible appeal," she said.

"This year's wonderful result is due, I believe, to greater awareness of our appeal and the continued support from our communities.

"Bradford's Kirkgate Shopping Centre sponsored the appeal this year against a backdrop of a boost in confidence and positivity in the city and across the district.

"Within 16 days, more than 30 organisations including Bradford Grammar School, UKAR, MacMillan Cancer Support, and Intouch Advance, to name just a few, ran mini-appeals within their workplace, collecting hundreds of gifts.

"This is the time of year when anything you can do for someone else really counts, especially when thousands of young children all around us will not enjoy Christmas like we may have come to appreciate.

"I'd just like to thank our sponsor, every organisation who has supported us, our amazing volunteers, and most importantly every single member of the public who put their hand in their pocket and, regardless of their financial circumstances, took the decision to help a child at Christmas.

"We can only hope that poverty in the UK is overcome, but in the meantime the Secret Santa Appeal will try to help those less fortunate."

JCI is a global network for young people in their 20s and 30s with nearly 200,000 members worldwide, and helping with the Secret Santa Appeal gives the opportunity for local Bradford members to take the lead to hone their project management skills.