Hartlepool Giving Tree
1549. Mark Rycraft
Mark Rycraft, from Hartlepool, founded the ‘Hartlepool Giving Tree’ initiative 10 years ago, encouraging local people to buy gifts for underprivileged children at Christmas time.
Many of the children who are supported by the project have escaped domestic violence, and been forced
to flee their homes quickly and leave all possessions behind. Mark works with local charities, including Hartlepool Carers and Harbour Hartlepool Refuge, to select gifts such as toys and clothing for vulnerable children. Donors are then able to buy suitable gifts by taking a gift tag from the giving tree which includes information on the child they are buying for, such as their age, gender and what they would like to receive. In previous years, the ‘Hartlepool Giving Tree’ has been based at Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, but this year, in light of the pandemic, Mark has moved the project online, allowing over 174,000 Christmas gifts to be purchased and donated.
In a personal letter to Mark, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“I was inspired to hear about the amazing things you have achieved in the last decade with the ‘Hartlepool Giving Tree’, sending out hundreds of thousands of presents.
“It is sad that we will not be having a normal Christmas this year but it’s fantastic that you have moved online to collect over 170,000 donated gifts. Alongside your fantastic team of volunteers, you will bring joy to children who may otherwise not have a present to open on Christmas Day.”
“We have been blown away by the success of the giving tree campaign this year which raised 174,730 gifts, and we are honoured to have been chosen as the UK’s 1549th Point of Light. The campaign means so much to us as a team, and we’re so grateful to our partner charities, staff and volunteers who have enabled us to provide gifts for so many children across the UK who may not have had a Christmas present this year. I am truly honoured to accept this award and recognition from the Prime Minister.”