Campaign to give presents to Rhondda Cynon Taf children who would otherwise wake up at Christmas with nothing
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
A campaign to give Christmas presents to children in Rhondda Cynon Taf who otherwise wouldn’t have any is going from strength to strength.
Councillor Ross Williams, who represents Penrhiwceiber on Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, runs a Santa appeal with his friend Anthony Trow which aims to bring gifts to children in RCT who, without their intervention, would wake up on Christmas morning with nothing.
Mr Williams started collecting in 2012 on a very small scale amongst family members when he would arrange a visit to the house from Santa and the family would donate a gift which he would then donate to other Santa appeals.
Mr Williams said: “This started to escalate year on year to where I was getting small business offering gifts and donations from Unite the Union aviation branch amongst having a collection at work.”
He reached out to his friend Mr Trow who, in his line of work, would dig deep into the heart of the communities to find families and children that may go under the radar of social services or families who had run into unforeseen emergencies, such as having to flee a violent relationship with nothing weeks before Christmas.
Mr Williams said: “Anthony is the best at this.”
They now get referrals from schools, foodbank charities and resilient families groups as well as people that may have noticed that someone has run into difficulty or where they’d heard children saying “mam has said there’s no Santa this year” simply because they don’t have the means to buy gifts.
Mr Williams said: “This is where we both step up and do our very best to ensure they do have Christmas.
“This is very time consuming for both me and Anthony, however seeing the difference it makes have made us both so enfranchised in the appeal I don’t think either of us could not do it.
“Myself and Anthony liaise daily on new families that usually Anthony finds that need help and no doubt again this year will be working up to Christmas Eve, appealing for donations, delivering gifts and really trying to leave nobody behind.”
Mr Trow said: “We have had families who have benefited in previous years who are the first to buy gifts back when in a better place clearly demonstrating the authenticity of the people we have supported and the genuine care.”
Mr Williams said the real heroes in all this are the “wonderful people that donate so generously year on year” with gifts coming from as far as Australia from an old school friend as well as from Ireland and Somerset, with lots of local businesses contributing along with friends and family stepping up to help.
He said: “This only galvanises what I have also known, that our community is amazing and resilient when it comes to wrapping our arms around each other in times of need.”
Mr Williams said he thinks they have collected and distributed thousands of gifts to kids which makes them both “immensely humbled and proud” of everyone who has made it what it is and enabled the two of them to be real life Santas for a few weeks of the year.
Others that are involved include The Citizens Advice Bureau, local sports teams, health visitors and surrounding family engagement officers in schools.
Both Mr Williams and Mr Trow also paid tribute to their families for the support during their work on this.
Mr Trow said he knows his family is trying to man the fort while he’s doing what he’s doing for the surrounding families.
He said that without his wife Bethan’s understanding he wouldn’t be available as much as he has been.
Mr Williams agreed and said without his wife Annabelle allowing him to use the house as a warehouse for the gifts none of this would be possible and that their wives’ support allows them to carry out this mammoth task which grows year on year.
He said it is “so amazing” to see parents who thought they wouldn’t have Christmas have their Christmas put back on track.