Volunteer mums aim to collect 20,000 Christmas gifts for children in need

Volunteer mums aim to collect 20,000 Christmas gifts for children in need
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An online community of almost 100,000 women has rallied for a toy appeal, to ensure all homeless or sick children get a gift this Christmas - but they need help with transport.

The Mas On A Mission Facebook page hope to collect upwards of 20,000 new toys for donation to various charities, refuges and hospitals throughout the country.

Founder of the group and page administrator Suzanne Burke has even organised that a gift will be sent to 'Sam' - the little five-year-old homeless boy who was pictured eating dinner off a cardboard sheet in a Dublin street.

"It's been an overwhelming response so far," said Suzanne who only set up the Facebook page nine months ago.

"We have 98,000 women from Ireland and ex-pats from all around the world discussing all topics with the group.

"However, there are so many women on the group who are suffering. Some are homeless, some can't afford the rent, some are facing eviction, others have children needing long-term hospital treatment. All are foremost worried about their children.

"There are so many in difficult circumstances that I just decided to set up the toy appeal within the group and it's exploded. We are looking for new toys, costing up to a maximum of €20 for girls and boys between the different age ranges of 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 and teens.

"We have also just set up a GoFundMe page where people can donate what they can for toys and that has already reached €5,000.

"One man has donated 150 new toys. We have had loads of toys donated by Homesavers Ireland and Nesta.ie has kindly given us the use of a locked unit to store the gifts.

"All the toys will be donated to about 100 charities across the country including The Ronald McDonald House, Aoibheann's Pink Tie, women's refuges and hospices.

"I talked to the lady who runs the soup kitchen that 'Sam' goes to so I've arranged that a present will wing its way to him and his family."

Now, the mum-of-four who hails from Kildare is appealing to a haulage or transit company to help out with bringing the toys to the warehouse for the volunteers to sort and then distributing them to the various charities.

"We have had such lovely offers from people generously offering their vans but it would make things much easier logistically if one big transport company would come on board to manage the transport," she said.

'I bought the doll in memory of Millie'

Dozens of mums from all around the country have offered to volunteer, including Lorraine Nelson from Navan, Co Meath who lost her little daughter Millie to non spinal muscular atrophy type 1 related infection three years ago.

"I am a member of the Mas On a Mission page and when I saw the toy appeal, I knew I had to help.

"I lived in the Ronald McDonald House for a year, including Christmas, with my husband Gary, daughter Sophie and twin boys while Millie was intensive care.

"When you have a sick child in intensive care, it's mayhem and that year, I really understood the true meaning of Christmas. All that really mattered that year was that we were all together.

It was Millie's first Christmas but little did we think it would be her last.

Although she faced an emotional rollercoaster, Lorraine decided to buy a doll for the appeal, for a four-year-old girl - the age that Millie would be now if she had survived.

"I bought the doll in memory of Millie," she said. "I was shaking from head to toe when I bought it because of the emotions welling up inside me of how Millie would have reacted when she saw it.

"I never really looked forward to Christmas since Millie died, but this year the toy appeal has given me strength and a positive outlook."

People can donate their toys at a number of drop-offs locally advertised on November 16 between 10am and 1pm, or they can give a donation for toys at the GoFundMe page.

Any transport companies who would like to help can contact Suzanne at the Mas On A Mission Facebook page or on her Instagram account More_than_just_a_ma.

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