HE’S the ‘Selection Box Santa’ who has spread festive cheer in the community for the last two years – and now 12-year-old young carer Blake Leonard has triumphed again.
The generous schoolboy, from Long Melford, started his ‘Chocs for Champs’ initiative in 2018, in a bid to applaud and reward the hundreds of young carers around Suffolk who play such an important role in their families throughout the year.
Blake, who is a pupil of Ormiston Sudbury Academy and part of Suffolk Family Carers ‘Young Carers’, cares for his mum Libby, who has secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.
This Christmas, in the belief that young carers need a generous gesture more than ever because of the pandemic, Blake pulled out all the stops to achieve a huge donation haul of some 1,257 selection boxes, thanks to friends and family, and supermarkets and small local businesses around the region.
He’s since been tasking the staff of the Young Carers team at Suffolk Family Carers to act as Christmas Elves, and deliver the chocolate to young carers throughout Suffolk.
Blake said: “It’s been a much harder year for young carers like me, because of Covid and the disruption to school and seeing friends and family, so I was determined to make sure Chocs for Champs would be even more successful this year.
“I also wanted this year’s effort to be in tribute to my teacher, Lisa Gilson, who sadly passed away a few weeks ago.”
Mum Libby is enormously proud of her son’s spirit and generosity.
She said: “There’s no stopping him once he decides there’s something to be achieved, and he really has done an amazing job this year at getting supermarkets and family and friends to donate and support young children who do so much.
“It’s definitely been tougher on young carers in 2020, so I’m really proud that Blake’s idea will make so many children a little happier this Christmas.”
Suffolk Family Carers has been working closely with young carers throughout the pandemic, ensuring all youngsters still have regular contact – even if it is through technology.
Jessica Searle, from the charity, commented: “Blake is such an incredibly driven young man, and we’re all in awe at what he has been able to achieve this year.
“Each of the selection boxes will put a smile on the face of young people in Suffolk who have been so special within their families this year, and we’ve been delighted to play the role of festive elves and deliver the gifts throughout the county.”
Such has been the success of Blake’s initiative that he now requires extra storage space – near Sudbury – for his future campaigns. If you can help, or you want to know more about the initiative, email firstname.lastname@example.org