Celebrating six years of Secret Santa: our campaign so far

Tuesday 02 January 2024
Young Carers Aloud choir outside Westminster Abbey

Christmas is a wonderful time of year. A time of mince pies, stockings, and Christmas music. But at Action for Children, this period is even more magical: it is also the time of our Secret Santa campaign.

Secret Santa is our Christmas charity appeal. Each year, we ask people like you to help a vulnerable child, young person, or family in the UK. How? By buying a gift that could put the magic back into their Christmas.

And each Christmas, our supporters remind us of their incredible generosity.

Be a Secret Santa

Many children will wake up on Christmas to no stockings. No presents. No festive food. Your gift could change this.

Choose a gift

But this year also marked six years of our Secret Santa campaign. Six years of seeing the incredible difference that people like you can make.

Last year, we helped 765,905 children, young people, and their families in the UK. This year, with your help we could reach even more.

To mark the event, we have reflected over the last six years and the wonderful milestones and impact that our supporters have helped us make.

2018: The birth of Secret Santa

little boy in santa costume.jpg

2018 saw the launch of our first ever Secret Santa campaign. It started with just an illustration style of a child at Christmas and an animated video that spoke to people across the UK.

Each year since, the magic has only grown...

2019: From Covent Garden to virtual gifting

Our second year saw our Secret Santa campaign grow even more – taking to London with its first ever charity pop-up shop. The shop was in the Christmassy haven of Covent Garden. And for sale were "Safe and Happy" jumpers and T-shirts, each designed by celebrity supporters.


Mrs Hinch and Stacey Solomon in our safe and happy t-shirts

But the designs were not only cosy and Christmassy; they also embodied our vision of trying to create safe and happy childhoods across the UK.

2019 also saw the introduction of our virtual gifting, which allowed supporters to buy a charitable gift for their loved ones anywhere in the world. All of a sudden, becoming a Secret Santa was easier and more accessible than ever before.

Buy a virtual charity gift

Many UK children will wake up on Christmas morning to no toys, food, or warmth. Choose a virtual gift and become a Secret Santa to help change this

Choose a gift

2020: Pivoting our campaign

2020 and the wake of Covid-19 saw us pivot our Secret Santa campaign and embrace the need for virtual gifting and events even more.

Having introduced virtual gifting the year before, it soon became a cornerstone of our Christmas appeal. A cornerstone that has remained to this day.

Little girl wearing Santa hat and using laptop while relaxing at home for Christmas. Her mother is in the background

We also introduced our Starry Night carol concept: a virtual event hosted by journalist and TV presenter, Jon Snow, with dazzling performances from Leona Lewis and Liam Gallagher.

It was a night of carols and comedy, and brought together households across the UK in festive cheer and the message of giving back at Christmas.

2021: Celebs, partnerships, and Santa takeovers

2021 was an exciting year for our Secret Santa campaign. A new partnership with First Direct meant we could share our mission of delivering safe and happy childhoods to even more people.

We also hosted a Radio Times Santa takeover that reached millions of listeners nationwide. This was an exciting highlight for our Christmas campaign, as people across the UK heard and supported our message of putting the magic back into Christmas for a vulnerable child.

2022: Secret Santa takes its first award

In its fifth year, Secret Santa had one of its greatest achievements yet: we received the Poverty award at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose. This award was a milestone in our campaign, making 2022 a year to remember.

2022 also saw the launch of out first ever Secret Santa TV ad...

Secret Santa Christmas TV ad Festive mantlepiece with Christmas cards

The advert features Nathan, Lucy and Tripti and was narrated by Larry Lamb. He shares their individual stories as they come to life through Christmas cards displayed on a festive mantlepiece.

The advert was a marked milestone in our campaign, which even made an appearance on ITV's This Morning, reaching even more people across the UK.

Larry Lamb sat in front of Chrsitmas tree holding a wrapped present and Snow globe that says 'Santa gift'

An unexpected gift

Perhaps the icing on the Christmas cake in 2022, however, was the unexpected support from comedian Peter Kay. During a live performance, Peter Kay graciously contributed £14,000 to our cause - £1 for each person who attended.

Whilst on stage, he said:

"I think Christmas is about doing good things for other people so we’re gonna take a pound off each of you. I’m going to put it in a children's charity, and I was looking at my phone on the way down and I found one called Action for Children. They do a Secret Santa, and it seems really lovely. There’s 14,000 people here, so if I take a pound that’s £14,000 for children on your behalf. So, thanks!”

Read more about Peter's donation here

2023: Festive baubles and wonderful carols

Finally, this year too was a year to remember for our Secret Santa campaign. In November, we launched our first ever range of charity Christmas baubles.

The baubles were designed by Jess – a young person who received support from Action for Children – and TV personality Billie Shepherd.

Billie's Magical Bauble

Both are sustainable, plastic-free and locally sourced. They are also handmade, which makes each one beautifully unique.

But whether Jess' baubles, with its shades of blossom pink and festive green, or Billie's mother of pearl and gold, each will add a touch of festive glamour and charitable giving to homes across the UK this Christmas.

Buy a Magical Bauble and become a Secret Santa

I hope everyone loves it as much as I do! It makes me so happy to know that buying my bauble will support the charity that helped me.


Carols at 'Together at Christmas'

In December, our extraordinary Young Carers Aloud choir showcased their talent. Not only did they give a magical performance at our Starry Night Gala at the end of November. But on ITV's This Morning and at our royal patron’s, the Princess of Wales, Christmas carol event 'Together at Christmas'.

The Princess of Wales never fails to amaze us with her support for Action for Children. But the invite to our young carers choir to perform as people arrived at the Together at Christmas carols was the star of our Christmas celebrations this year.

Young Carers Aloud choir outside Westminster Abbey

Their medley of Christmas songs brought warmth and festivity to all in attendance. Whilst the collective talent and dedication of the Young Carers Aloud choir added a magical touch to our festive season. It was truly a celebration to remember.

Learn more about the Young Carers Aloud choir