It all started with one woman’s wish to spread the festive spirit.
And now, an appeal by The Bradley Lowery Foundation has created hundreds of special boxes set to put smiles on so many faces this Christmas.
With just weeks to go until December 25, Gemma Lowery and her team are preparing to hand out around 750 boxes to men, women, children and pets across the North East.
From sleeping bags to warm clothing and festive snacks, the boxes are packed full of little treats to cheer up the Christmas season for those who may have gone without - and it’s all thanks to donations from the public.
Gemma said: “It’s absolutely incredible how people have got behind the campaign.
“I always say it’s nice to be nice - and Christmas is a nice, happy, family time and not everybody has that.”
Mum-of-two Gemma launched the shoebox appeal in October, inspired by the kindness shown to her son Bradley, who died in July 2017.
Six-year-old Bradley, who lived in Blackhall and was an avid Sunderland AFC supporter, bravely fought terminal neuroblastoma cancer for a number of years.
While fundraising for her son, Gemma was touched by one particular donation made by a homeless man, who placed his last bit of change into one of their buckets.
That act of selflessness inspired the charity’s campaign to create Christmas gifts for homeless people and their animals, women in refuges and children in care.
The Foundation hoped to get enough donations for as many boxes as possible - but they have been blown away by the kindness of strangers from up and down the country.
Gemma continued: “It is just incredible - we thought ‘we’ll do the shoebox campaign’ and not in a million years did we think it would go as well as it has.”
The boxes will be handed out by the charity in the run-up to Christmas, and on Christmas Day Gemma, husband Carl, Foundation co-founder Lynn Murphy and Lynn’s daughter are planning to take to the streets to distribute boxes to the homeless.
Specific parcels have been made up for women’s refuges, children in residential homes, people living on the streets and their pets - and more donations are always welcome.
The Foundation are focusing on making more boxes for the homeless - but all items have to be collected by the end of November so the parcels can be made up in time for distribution.
In a bid to make it easier to donate an item, the Foundation created an Amazon wish list so people could choose what to buy.
At the moment, the charity is most in need of food items to add to the parcels - like instant soups, crisps and cereal bars.
Gemma added: “It makes you feel so happy that people are going to benefit from other people’s kindness.”
The boxes will be handed out across the region, from Middlesbrough through to Sunderland, and on to Newcastle ahead of Christmas Day.
•Can you think of another distribution point for The Bradley Lowery Foundation’s Christmas boxes? If you have any ideas call the charity on 0191 3896347 or contact them through their social media channels.