20 years playing Santa for Teesside Hero Kath

January 21st, 2020

When some of the poorest children in our area woke up on Christmas morning to find presents under the tree, it was because one Middlesbrough woman had worked tirelessly to help put them there.

Kath Callan, a grandma of two, has co-ordinated the Salvation Army’s Christmas Toy Appeal in Middlesbrough for the past 20 years.

This year demand for the appeal’s help was bigger than ever. It reached out to 1,000 children and sent food parcels to more than 300 families to ensure they had something to celebrate the festivities with.

Now, Kath’s long-standing devotion to the cause has earned her an honour of her own – she has become the latest recipient of the Teesside Philanthropic Foundation’s Teesside Hero Award.

Kath, who has been involved with the Salvation Army in Middlesbrough all her life, has also organised fundraising drives for cancer research and many other charities. She founded and organised the Teesside Netball League 35 years ago, has led the Salvation Army’s choir for 25 years and leads the Ladies Fellowship which has also raised money for many charities.

“It was a complete surprise, I did not have a clue at all,” said Kath, who was presented with her Teesside Hero Award by Philanthropic Foundation personal patron Jayne Stephenson.

“The Foundation has donated toys and has helped us in the past and I thought they were coming to take some pictures because of that – and then I saw my husband and son come in and some other members of the Foundation and they said ‘We’re here to give you this!’

“I do it because it is part of my life, this is me. I didn’t expect an award at all.

“The Christmas Toy Appeal started off some time ago and 20 years ago, it kind of fell into my lap. I’ve been co-ordinating it for 20 years this year and this is a really nice way to be able to mark the anniversary.

“It is a real team effort though – I might be the one who keeps them in line and organises, but it is very much done as a team.”

Kath was nominated for the award by her brother Bob Brown who told the Foundation how she and the team bring a little sunshine into the lives of children who are less fortunate than others.

Donations of toys are accepted from various organisations across the area including the Philanthropic Foundation, individuals and churches and Kath works with agencies including social services and schools to help identify where the parcels should go.

As part of her award, Kath gets £1,000 from the Philanthropic Foundation to put into a charity of her own choosing.

She has decided to split the money and send £500 to the Macmillan cancer patient care team at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and £500 to the Butterwick Children’s Hospice.

“Macmillan were very good to both my mother and my mother-in-law, and I wanted to be able to send the money to a local cause,” added Kath.

“My other choice is Butterwick Children’s Hospice. I have two lovely granddaughters of my own now and I could not imagine life without them.”

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