Staff and supporters of the University of Sunderland have raised over £10,000 to ensure that some of the most vulnerable members of the student community have a happy Christmas.

In November, the University launched the We Care at Christmas appeal to support care-experienced and estranged students at its Sunderland and London campuses with the aim of raising £2,000.

Within weeks, University staff had raised over £3,000 to assist these learners and their families.

The Rotary Club of Sunderland added their support with a £2,000 donation and then, earlier this week, entrepreneur and philanthropist Helen McArdle CBE matched the monies raised with a further £5,000.

The total raised now stands at £10,220. Staff and student volunteers are working to ensure that over 160 care experienced and estranged students and their families will have a Christmas they will never forget.

The appeal has received a further boost from the Hartlepool Giving Tree appeal, which has donated toys and games to the 27 children of the students.

Following their successful appeal – which generated over 100,000 donations – the Hartlepool Giving Tree is reaching out to charities UK-wide with donations of toys and gifts.

Many care-experienced and estranged students spend Christmas alone, without a card, gift, festive meal or companionship.

For those students with children, it is a particularly difficult time trying to provide for their children, while making Christmas special.

Wendy Price is Head of Widening Access and Participation at the University and leads the We Care team.

She says: “With support from our colleagues and wider university community, I’m absolutely delighted that we’ve been able to raise over £10,200 for the We Care at Christmas Campaign.

“I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to every person who donated to this campaign.

“I’d particularly like to thank our friends at the Rotary Club Sunderland, Helen McArdle CBE and the Hartlepool Giving Tree for their extremely generous donations.

“This will make such a difference to our students and act as an important reminder to them that they are such a valued part of our university community.

“I never could have dreamt that when we started this campaign we’d now be in this position.

“The students we support are extremely grateful to everyone who has contributed to this campaign.”

Helen McArdle CBE donated £5,000 to the We Care at Christmas appeal.  She commented: “My whole life has been dedicated to making a difference, both in my care homes and nurseries.

“I know that the University of Sunderland shares a similar vision, to offer a life changing education to all people of ability, no matter what their background.

“I know that my donation will make a difference and so I am delighted to be able to help the University support these ambitious and inspirational people.”

Helen McArdle CBE has a strong association with the University of Sunderland.

In 2019, she donated £2.5 million to the University to establish The Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Institute and assist other projects.

She continues to take a close interest in all aspects of the University’s work.

Ted Holder, Treasurer for Sunderland Rotary Club, said: “The Rotary Club of Sunderland is dedicated to giving back to the local community and supporting people from diverse backgrounds.

“We are proud to support these students and honoured to contribute to the University of Sunderland’s life-changing work.”

Sir David Bell, the University’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive said, “The We Care Christmas appeal has touched the hearts of everyone in the University community, and well beyond too.

“I am enormously grateful to all those who have contributed to such a brilliant cause. As a result, many of our students and their families will enjoy a much better Christmas than might otherwise have been the case.”

If you would like to find out more about the appeal go to the We Care at Christmas Go Fund Me page.