THE organisers of Secret Santa in Blackburn have been inundated with support for their bid to get 7,000 presents for children in the borough.

Phil and Karen Boulding, from Lower Darwen, started Secret Santa for Christmas 2017 and are now on track to make sure 1,000 Blackburn with Darwen children wake up to a bag of presents on Christmas morning.

Phil Boulding said: “Support exploded since the Lancashire Telegraph’s write up of our Secret Santa appeal for toys and donations. We honestly just couldn’t believe the calls of support that were coming in.

“Already we have been able to deliver 160 sacks and so 840 remain. We have partnered with the Salvation Army who are working to provide gifts to go into the sacks, but they too have been impacted by Covid-19 this year.”

Innov8 Energy Ltd in Burnley called to ask Phil and his wife Karen how they could help after seeing the front page appeal and donated 840 selection boxes, enough for one each in the sacks they have left to fill, as well as donating a room full of toys.

Innov8 Energy also shared the couple's details among their contacts which ended up with the appeal gaining a new website designed by Blackburn company Smart-Media Ltd.

Each child will receive seven presents in their ‘red bag of joy’ - a selection box, stocking filler, book, board game or puzzle, sporty item, a teddy and a main present.

Iceland have also jumped on board to help and donated hundreds of Toblerones and boxes of Maltesers from the company and community.

Phil added: “We are now okay for chocolates, really we are. It’s just amazing. We are so privileged and humbled by it all.”

Secret Santa is based on the edge of Blackburn Mall on King William Street, with their shop being provided rent free by Blackburn Mall over the past 12 months to support the community interest company.

It has not stopped there with monetary donations and fundraisers also helping the appeal.

Phil and Karen believe that, despite their earlier worries, they will reach this year’s target.

Phil said: “The Telegraph has really helped raise our profile and, despite coronavirus in 2020, we honestly believe we are going to smash our target.

“We have had several hundreds of pounds donated via our JustGiving page following the newspaper article, with messages of support. And people tapping on the door wanting to donate new presents to go directly into the children’s sacks which is just so heart-warming.

“Talking of heart-warming; a young seven-year old called Henry along with his very supportive family did a sponsored bike ride for us and raised £750 – Henry cycled 15.35 miles!

"We just had to ask him if he would be a child ambassador for us and he accepted.

“Henry also said that this was only the start – he was going to do bigger and better next year – just amazing.”

Warren Marsden, of BCC-Citroen on Bank Top, contacted Phil and Karen to share that they were organising a fully sign-written van, teaming up with company Douglas Signs, which they can use to make deliveries for a month.

If anyone wants to donate presents to the CIC this year, Phil and Karen are asking for toys for children between ages nine and 13 as these very often are missed out each year.