“I think he’s very proud of himself, he’s only eight so he feels like he’s famous, but it’s also a really nice lesson for him to learn. It started off as this little idea but actually even he can make quite a big difference.”
Anyone can take part and donate, and kids can contribute any sponsorship money they raise to a GoFundMe page that will be donated to the appeal. The effort has already raised over £300.
Youngsters can get involved by running, trampolining, cycling or even skipping. Ben will ride around the block five times on his scooter while donning a Christmas jumper.
The Winter Toy Appeal is run by Local Buyers Club, which supports independent businesses and several charities.
Jenna Fansa, who has run the appeal with her husband Basil for 7 years, said the pandemic would make the toy appeal more difficult but it wouldn’t stop participants from contributing.
“Ben came up with the idea of this fundraiser where children could do things separately, but if they wear a Christmas jumper and do it at the same time, it feels like a combined effort.”
If anything, the appeal had seen an increase in demand, she added.
“We’ve got thousands of children in North and East London who are being referred to us for gifts this year. And the numbers that we’re seeing from agencies have gone up because of the coronavirus crisis. We desperately need more toys.
“I can’t imagine what Christmas would be like for a child without a special gift to open. We call this the winter toy appeal because the toys go to children of all faiths.
“But to the children living in extreme poverty, it’s unimaginable. This winter toy appeal brings a little bit of winter magic.”
The Buyers Club also ran a Halloween event to support local food banks, generous members of the public donated enough to fill three lorries.
“We were gobsmacked. Last year, we collected enough meals for 1,200 people, and this year, we’ve collected enough for well over 12,000 people,” Jenna added.
“We don’t have a very big house but it was full of food. We couldn’t move.
It took three lorries to take it all away, and two of us lifting 5 tonnes of food in and out of the house.
“It’s lovely, the people of Hackney are among the most generous people I’ve ever come across.”