Donegal’s Lifestart Services has relaunched its Christmas Toy Appeal to support local families facing hardship this winter.

The initiative invites people to volunteer as a Secret Santa. Volunteers are paired with a child in the community and given some anonymous information to help them choose the ideal gift.

The heartwarming project aims to bring a little bit of holiday magic to children whose parents/guardians may be in financial hardship.

Last year, the Donegal Christmas Toy Appeal and Lifestart Services brought Christmas joy to one hundred local children in Donegal by connecting them with volunteer Secret Santas around the county.

Lifestart Services are a non-profit based in Newtowncunningham who work with hundreds of families in Donegal. This year Lifestart has seen a large increase in the families who are needing support services, in particular due to increased financial hardship. They have identified some families who are experiencing poverty, and are in need of support this Christmas. The Christmas Toy Appeal is looking for volunteers to give a gift of a brighter Christmas for these children this year.

The process is straightforward, and quite fun. The volunteer Secret Santas sign up to the Christmas Toy Appeal, and we pair them with a child. Each Secret Santa receives some anonymous information on their child, including their age, gender, some interests, and a recommended spending limit of €50-€70. In late November the volunteers drop the gifts to the designated collection points across Donegal, where they are picked up by Lifestart Services and distributed to the families in time for Christmas.

Christmas Toy Appeal Drop-off point in Donegal: Some of the many gifts dropped off at House of Fun Montessori Preschool in December last year

Mary Walker Callaghan, Regional Manager, Lifestart Services issued a big thank you to all the wonderful people who donate to this worthy cause and said: “Christmas can be a challenging time for families, especially those who are on a low income, and especially with the rising cost of living.  In 2022, the Christmas Toy Appeal Donegal made a genuine difference to families across Donegal by reducing stress and feelings of guilt at Christmas, as well as providing some joy and excitement for children and enabling families to have fun together. The need is even higher in 2023 and we in Lifestart Services believe that every child deserves the gift of play and to enjoy the wonder of Christmas.”

Louise McCormack, Volunteer at the Donegal Christmas Toy Appeal added: “For some families in Donegal, there have been significant financial challenges which have made 2023 particularly tough. Signing up as a Secret Santa offers a meaningful opportunity to give back to our local community by supporting these families who are really struggling. Going out and handpicking gifts, gifts that will be very much appreciated by both the parent and the child, is heartwarming and it gives you a great feeling.”

Make someone’s Christmas and sign up to be a Secret Santa today by signing up online or emailing 

Online Sign up form: 

For more information, contact: