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Shoebox Appeal 2012

STUDENTS queued up at a Middlesbrough academy to hand over shoeboxes full of gifts for needy children around the world.

Staff at The King’s Academy, in Coulby Newham, had to organise a relay of drop-offs by tutor groups to build the school’s stack of 462 boxes ready for collection by Samaritan’s Purse.

The charity’s Operation Christmas Child appeal sends the boxes to children in Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia.

Assistant vice principal Carey Brownless explained:

I start promoting the scheme in September by doing presentations to students about the appeal and showing a video. It shows our students that their donations really make a big difference to the lives of children in other parts of the world who really don’t have very much.

Last year we collected 541 boxes and we heard they went to children in orphanages in Belarus. Every year our students and staff respond in the most fantastic way and it’s a real pleasure to coordinate our collection.”

Mrs Brownless added:

The appeal marks the start of our seasonal celebrations and reminds everybody of the true meaning of Christmas.”

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Students sing up disabled riding

A singing group had an equine audience when they celebrated Christmas in the appropriate setting of a stables. Students from The King’s Academy provided some of the musical entertainment at the Christmas fair at the Riding for the Disabled Unicorn Centre in Coulby Newham.

The group, called Vocalmotion, sang carols and Christmas songs led by former student Lana Walker and watched by visitors to the fair, centre staff and volunteers.

Drama teacher June Walker said: “The riding centre is very local to us and we were delighted to bring our singing group to entertain the guests.

“This group meets every Friday and largely comprises singers who perform in academy productions and some new comers. The visitors and staff at the centre seemed to enjoyed it, but the ponies nodded their heads a few times.”

Earlier in the evening children from Rose Wood Primary also performed.

Centre manager Claire Pitt explained how vital fundraising events were to the centre, which was paid for by a Lottery grant but receives no on-going funding.

“We have to raise £300,000 a year to operate and that doesn’t include new ponies or tack,” she said.

“The Christmas fair is an important event for us and we’re very grateful to the singers from The King’s Academy for supporting us and entertaining our visits so well. I was blown away by them, they were amazing. We’re also grateful to Barclays, who will match fund what we raise at the fair.”

More than 200 disabled adults and children use the centre, which has 21 ponies looked after by 12 staff and students studying a diploma in work based horse care at Middlesbrough College, as well as 100 volunteers.

Claire added: “Riding is hugely beneficial to our disabled riders – physically, emotionally and socially. It involves them in a fun, sporting activity, gives them contact with animals and can help improve balance and movement.”

For more information about the centre, call 01642 576222 or visit