NEEDY youngsters around the world will receive a touch of festive cheer thanks to Teesside school children.

Students at The King’s Academy in Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough rallied together to support the Operation Christmas Child appeal.

The project, organised by the Samaritan’s Purse charity, sees shoeboxes stuffed with Christmas gifts by well-wishers and sent to needy children in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia.

Almost 500 shoeboxes were filled by pupils with gifts like dolls, skipping ropes, teddy bears and sweets.

Staff had to organise a relay of drop-offs to ready the stack of 462 boxes for collection by Samaritan’s Purse, which has been sending Christmas gifts to children since 1990, when a father from North Wales became distressed at the plight of Romanian orphans and drove a truck full of toys to Romania.

The Academy’s assistant vice principal, Carey Brownless, said the children had been preparing to help for months. She said: "I start promoting the scheme in September by doing presentations to students about the appeal and showing a video. It shows our students that their donations really make a big difference to the lives of children in other parts of the world who really don't have very much.

"Last year we collected 541 boxes and we heard they went to children in orphanages in Belarus. Every year our students and staff respond in the most fantastic way and it’s a real pleasure to coordinate our collection. The appeal marks the start of our seasonal celebrations and reminds everybody of the true meaning of Christmas."