A children’s hospital charity was today “overwhelmed” by the incredible generosity of Londoners who rushed to help after thieves stole £3,000 of presents for critically ill young patients.
More than £24,000 was raised – include a donation of £3,000 – in less than 24 hours after the Evening Standard yesterday revealed the theft of the gifts and decorations, including a Santa suit, from the paediatric intensive care unit at St Mary’s hospital, Paddington.
Further good news came when London Ambulance Service paramedic Nigel Flanagan said he would be delivering 100 presents to the unit next week to replace those taken.
Many people donating to a crowdfunded appeal set up by the Cosmic charity – Children of St Mary’s Intensive Care – said they had been compelled to act after being distraught to read of the crime. More than 150 boxed gifts, including baby-walkers and cot decorations, were taken from an unused ward between October 3 and November 17. They were to have been used at a carol concert on Monday and a party on December 11.
Cosmic spokeswoman Vicky Rees told the Standard: “We’ve had an amazing response. It’s been brilliant. It just keeps going up. We’ve been completely shocked with the response we have had.
“We always expected there were some kind people out there but it’s been overwhelming. We’ve had people calling in and the [hospital] staff have been rallying behind us. It means we can do even more at Christmas for the children.”
Mr Flanagan, 40, a LAS paramedic for 13 years, organises an annual Christmas collection from colleagues and their family and friends. Last year he distributed 700 Christmas gifts from 16 ambulance stations.
He said he felt “so sad” when he read about the theft and felt compelled to help. “I couldn’t believe it,” he told the Standard. “I have not done that hospital before but it needs to be done, especially with all the presents taken from it. It would be nice to make that wrong right and try to help them out, so children can open presents on that day.”
Mr Flanagan, from Catford, recently moved from Oval to South Croydon ambulance station. “I have been doing this work for five years,” he said.
“I have asked staff and their friends and family to donate presents at this time of year. These presents we then deliver to local hospitals, special needs schools, hospices and social services. They all get a box of Christmas presents. After reading your news yesterday, I have got ambulance stations all dotted around London that have collection boxes and a member of staff working as an ‘elf’.
“I don’t have one near St Mary’s but we are going to get a box and make it up for them and deliver it next week. Hopefully that will go some way to putting smiles back on some children’s faces. I couldn’t believe that someone would take presents from children in a hospital.”