HUNDREDS of the North-East's most deprived children will unwrap the magic of Christmas tomorrow (December 25), after a charity appeal received a record-breaking response.
Darlington Christmas Appeal, co-ordinated by the Salvation Army with support from The Northern Echo and Darlington Cares, was launched with the aim of ensuring a Christmas to remember for every child - no matter what their family's circumstances.
More than 400 children in the borough have benefited from the appeal and each will receive four brand new presents on Christmas morning.
It is, quite simply, something that they would more than likely have missed out on were it not for the appeal tapping into the generosity of people in Darlington and the surrounding area.
The Salvation Army runs the appeal in Darlington every year, with supporting coverage in The Northern Echo.
This year, the appeal was also joined by Darlington Cares, an employer-led initiative that aims to encourage workplace volunteerism and corporate social responsibility.
Food donations were also collected, with 230 Christmas hampers dished out to needy families in Darlington.
The Salvation Army also has emergency cases referred to it by social services and other third party agencies.
Dozens of extra hampers and presents have been set aside for these critical cases, which will continue to come in throughout the festive period into early January.
This year's appeal began in early November and was relaunched following the tragic death of three-year-old Danny Wake.
The Darlington youngster was killed following an apparent hit-and-run, for which the person responsible has yet to be apprehended.
His tragic story caught touched hearts across the region, nowhere more so than in Darlington, where memorials for Danny and fundraisers for his family were held in the weeks following the incident.
Danny's family gave their blessing for the appeal to be relaunched in the three-year-old's memory, with people encourage to give toys and presents in his name.
Their selfless act led to a flood of further donations as the appeal gathered pace.
Since early December, the toys collected have been sorted at the Salvation Army headquarters, in Thompson Street East, before being delivered to their final destination in the days leading up to Christmas.
Captain Colin Bradshaw, leader of the Salvation Army in Darlington, said: "On behalf of all those who have been helped this Christmas, I want to say 'thank you'.
"Without your help, I know this appeal would not have been as successful as it has been.
"I am also deeply humbled by the support of Danny's family, whose association with the appeal as been both inspirational and moving.
"The support of the businesses through Darlington Cares, the support of the Darlington churches, The Northern Echo and the general public has been beyond compare."
Peter Barron, editor of The Northern Echo, added: "The Northern Echo is proud to have played a part in a record-breaking response to the Salvation Army appeal.
"It is lovely to know that, as a result of the appeal, so many families will have a Christmas that they might not otherwise have enjoyed."
Darlington Cares co-ordinator Katie Blundell said: "We have received great support from our members - particularly Darlington Borough Council, Deep Ocean, Modus Seabed Intervention, Sherwoods Vauxhall, EE, Cummins and the Student Loans Company.
"A big van full of gifts and food contributions was collected from Darlington Cares members.
"The feedback from members has been that they found it a touching appeal, firstly in terms of the gesture by Danny Wake's family.
"Members have also been humbled by the realisation that there are a lot of people, quite close to home, that are quite badly off at this time of year, and the chance to help them has been a really positive experience."