Celebrating fifty magic years of fundraising Santa fun

A host of volunteers join the Santa collections every year- such as James Bryce, Anne Banfield & Ossie Williams.
A host of volunteers join the Santa collections every year- such as James Bryce, Anne Banfield & Ossie Williams.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without it –and this year the fundraising Santa Sleigh which tours Daventry and surrounding villages every December is celebrating 50 years of bringing joy to residents young and old.

The community event has been running since Christmas 1965, having originally been organised by the Daventry Round Table.

Santa with two volunteers.

Santa with two volunteers.

Since 2005 the collection has been organised by Danetre Rotary Club and, while it continues to be used as a fundraising in support of charity, there are other reasons for carrying out the annual trip.

Treasurer Ian Robinson said: “It goes beyond a fundraising event, it is more about something for the whole of the Daventry community to enjoy.

“Over the 50 years it has probably raised just over £350,000 and while Rotary will organise events to raise funds for national causes, the money that our club has raised from this event will always be put back into the local community.”

In recent years the group has taken an additional approach to fundraising by asking volunteers to assist Santa with his collections.

Mr Robinson said: “We have had a number of different groups go out and collect.

“And what happens is that they can have 50 per cent of the takings and we will take 50 per cent of money raised. If an organisation such as Byfield Nursery comes forward, then they will go collecting in the village and the money stays within the local community.”

Explaining the difference that having the voluntary organisations on board makes, the group’s vice president, John Donovan, said: “If it was not for the volunteers helping us out then I do not think we would be able to go out with the sleigh.”

And having the sleigh visit streets across the Daventry district remains as popular today as it ever has done in the past 50 years.

Mr Robinson said: “We have children coming out in their pyjamas to say hello to Santa and children waving by the roadside, which is always a lovely feeling.

“We have also had comments in the past where people have brought their children out to say hello, having been bought out by their parents when they themselves were children.

“People have often said it feels like Christmas has started when we visit.”

The money raised also makes a massive difference to the lives of people.

Mr Robinson added: “To give a local example, the funds will enable us to take 15 disadvantaged children for a day out to Wicksteed Park in Kettering.

“We work with the schools in the local area to pick the children who get to come along; all of them have an absolutely fantastic time and that all comes about because of the work carried out in the Daventry district.”

This year’s visits start on Tuesday, December 2 when the sleigh will visit Newnham, Badby and Nether Heyford.

The following day it will go to Long Buckby before it makes its first trip to Daventry by visiting the Timken estate and homes in the Dennetts Close and New Forest Way area on Thursday, December 4.

The week will conclude by going to the Stefen Hill estate and The Inlands on Friday, December 5.

The sleigh resumes its journey on Monday, December 8 when it goes to Cherry Orchard and the Grange estates. It then goes to the Middlemore estate and the villages of Welton and Norton on Tuesday, December 9 .

On Wednesday, December 10 it will visit Weedon, while the following day it goes to The Dingle, The Slade, the west of the town centre and Drayton.

On Friday, December 12 it goes to Lang Farm before going to Byfield on Saturday, December 13.

It will then go to Barby and Kilsby on Monday, December 15 and return to Daventry the day after by going to Southbrook, Danetre Drive and St Andrews Drive. Wednesday, December 17 will see the sleigh visit Flore and Everdon.

The final three days of its trip will see the sleigh go to Braunston and the Headlands on Thursday, December 18, Ashby Fields and Daneholme on Friday, December 19 and Staverton for the final trip on Saturday, December 20.

Organisations helping with the collections this year include First Woodford Halse Guides, Fourth Daventry Rainbows, Ashby Fields Scout Group, Barby Primary School, Braunston PTA, Byfield Nursery, Children Come First (Daventry), Citizens Advice Bureau, DACT, Danetre Hospital, Daventry Mental Health Carers, District Scouts, Dolphins Swimming Club, Friends of Staverton School, Girl Guides, Green Health at Daventry, Helping Hands, Home-Start, Nether Heyford Pre-School, Newnham PTA, Preston Capes CC, Reach for Health, St James Infants, Wellbeing.

Business supporters for the collection include Brown’s for loan of a tractor, sponsorship from Daventry District Council , Granmead, Thorntons and Costa Coffee for providing refreshments and places for people to change, R D Clarke for insurance and Kuni Coffee and Comics to be used as a meeting place for the collectors.

For further information about the sleigh visit www.danetre-rotary.org.uk.

Danetre Rotary Club is also looking for people who have any pictures from the collections over the past 50 years to get in touch with them by emailing danetre.rotary@gmail.com.