CARING youngsters have given soldiers in Afghanistan some festive cheer after sending them shoeboxes full of Christmas gifts.

The children from St John’s CE Academy, in Darlington, packed hundreds of boxes with goodies for troops from The 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, based at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire.

Pupils, parents and guardians all contributed to the effort, which also featured help from Sainsbury’s and Freemasons from Darlington and Hartlepool, who held fundraising events to help pay for the gifts.

The donations were set up by parent Nikki Gaynor four years ago, and children today(November 15) held an assembly to present the boxes to soldiers.

Head teacher Christine Large said: “The project is a very meaningful way of learning pupils about peace and also caring and being compassionate towards others.

“The boxes are a wonderful gift for the soldiers, and they really appreciate opening them on Christmas Day when they are thousands of miles from home.

“We have a great link with the regiment, and the soldiers love coming in and taking PE lessons with the children.”