It's an early Christmas gift as appeal reaches £20,000
Mercury readers have helped put a massive £20,000 dent in our Christmas appeal to help Leicester Children's Holiday Centre, in Mablethorpe.
Thanks to the generosity of supporters, the appeal is on track to meet its £65,000 target to cover the cost of vital upgrades to the boiler and heating system at the centre, situated in the Lincolnshire resort.
Stalwart fund-raisers gathered at Leicester's Guildhall for their annual Christmas celebration, where charity chairman Jim Roberts said he felt "humbled" by the response to the appeal.
"Just to run the centre costs us about £135,000 every year," he said. "That goes on throughout the year, but we are really up against it if something goes wrong, like our boiler being condemned, which happened recently.
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"Without this extra help, we would have to close the centre.
"The response from our supporters has been fantastic, it's humbling, there's no other way to put it.
"It shows the wonderful support we have right across Leicestershire.
"The Mercury appeal is specifically to fix our boilers. So far, we have raised £20,000 but, the way things are going, we'll not only be able to do that, but also contribute a significant amount towards revamping the central heating system."
The centre has provided seaside holidays for under-privileged youngsters from Leicestershire for more than a century. Among the 60 people who gathered for Thursday's Christmas Miscellany, which raised about £400 towards the appeal through ticket sales and a raffle, was Pam Rickets, 69, of Barwell.
The memory of the fortnight she spent at the children's seaside retreat as a 10-year-old has stayed with her to this day.
"It was the only holiday I had as a child," said Pam, who was the second oldest of five children growing up in a terraced house in the now-demolished Gresham Street, Leicester, close to where Catherine Street stands today.
She said: "My parents did their best but we were very poor. To have my own bed and all the lovely food, sea and fresh air was wonderful. It was like a five-star hotel.
"The holiday is something I remember with a great deal of affection. The holiday centre means so much to me and I know how important it is to many kids today, too."
Kerry Smith, from Desford, said: "My late father went to Mablethorpe as a boy.
It was his favourite memory and, despite suffering with dementia in later years, it's something that stayed crystal-clear in his mind.''
Entertainment at the Guildhall, compèred by entertainer Derrick "Banjo Dez" Pearce, included performances from barbershop quartet SoClose, musicians T43 and the Tudor Choir, plus comedian Bob Paul.
Mr Roberts said: "It has become a tradition for the charity to organise a very special evening at the Guildhall, with its wonderful atmosphere.
"The evening brings together entertainment from a variety of talented people and includes a sumptuous buffet supper in the mayor's parlour.
"It was a great evening."