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Social Justice

This 8-year-old boy organised a Christmas toy appeal for children in need

Ben Boyt, from Stoke Newington in London, has organised the winter toy appeal with just one rule: do what you want wearing a festive jumper

In the spirit of World Kindness Day, an eight-year-old boy from London has organised his own fundraiser so that children in poverty can have toys to play with this Christmas. 

Ben Boyt, from Stoke Newington in north London, wants fellow kids to take part in the sponsored event as long as they follow one rule: do whatever activity they like while wearing a festive jumper.

The event, happening this Sunday November 15 at 2pm, will raise money for the Winter Toy Appeal, which runs every year to help 4,000 children in Hackney, Islington, Tower Hamlets and Haringey. 

Mum Kathryn said Ben supports the appeal every year and is “passionate” about all children having toys to play with on Christmas day. 

“At the end of summer we had this conversation where he suddenly became very upset at the thought of other children not getting anything on Christmas Day,” Kathryn told the Big Issue. 

“Ben was going to do a fundraiser by himself, and asking grandparents and friends to sponsor him. Then we thought we would extend it out to the neighbours and we got such a good response that we then extended it out to his school. People have been really eager to take it up. 

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“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.”

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