A Gloucester-based shelving company has been delivering doorstep Christmas surprises throughout December.
With the prospect of Christmas 2020 being one of the most difficult yet, BiGDUG received stacks of letters from Gloucestershire residents asking for a helping hand this year.
It has been an especially difficult year for some Gloucestershire families, and BiGDUG wanted to give back.
One family’s little boy had to undergone his third open heart surgery and was separated from his family during lockdown, a local artist lost most of his sight and coronavirus took its toll on people’s mental health and affected earnings for many this year.
But BiGDUG, who made headlines last year when it transformed its company headquarters into the UK’s largest advent calendar, decided to go one step further this time around.
An eye-catching transformation (including a 40-metre red bow) was created on their offices ahead of carrying out a surprise doorstep visit each day, as a calendar door opens, and a new window display is revealed.
This new initiative builds on the success of last year which saw the company carry out an act of kindness each day.
With surprise deliveries still underway across Gloucestershire, each family has opened their front door to a huge 2m x 1m cardboard box, containing absolutely everything they need to experience the perfect Christmas, after enjoying a surprise zoom call from Santa himself!
The boxes contain:
- Christmas Tree
- Christmas Decorations
- Light up Candle Bridge
- Christmas Crackers
- Widescreen TV
- NOW TV Stick Sky Cinema Pass
- Amazon Echo Dot
- Gloucester Rugby Hat
- Christmas Food & Drink hamper
- Asda voucher (to buy Christmas lunch)
- Balance Bike*
- LittleDUG Workstation*
- Mountain Bike*
- Nike Football*
- Stationery Set*
Chris Reilly, Managing Director of BiGDUG said: “Christmas is an extremely important time of the year for all of us, loved for the bringing together of family and friends. This year we need to feel this festive love and reignite our more distant connections more so than ever, so we decided to resurrect our advent calendar, trying to make more of an impact and drastically change the community’s holiday fate, for the better.
“Christmas isn’t about presents and money, but the stress that these elements can bring to a family already juggling several different challenges can take away the enjoyment of it all. We wanted to do our bit to spread some magic this Christmas, so it was their most memorable yet.”
The families surprised so far:
The Leonard-Ballard Family
Emma Leonard-Ballard wrote to BiGDUG after her wonderful partner Ben suffered a blood clot on the brain and lost most of his sight.
Emma said he has been an “incredible supportive and loving partner”, looking after her and their three children.
Unfortunately, Ben was an artist and as he could no longer work after falling ill, and Emma had to care for him full time.
Despite all of the challenges the family have stayed positive and Emma’s eldest daughter, Tabitha, 12, has been a fantastic young carer for both Ben and her brother Rufus, 9, as well as 3-year-old Arrietty.
The Shackell Family
Single working Mum Jess Shackell felt her children deserved a surprise following a very difficult year.
She has undergone three operations throughout 2020 while suffering with a large tumour on her kidney whilst also battling with the difficulties of lockdown. Her children, Lexie, 10, and Georgio, 8, have been extremely brave and looked after her throughout.
The Tudor Family
Martin Tudor wanted to surprise his “fabulous” wife and twins with something special this Christmas after a year of suffering with his mental health.
Covid-19 has resulted in his wife, Steph, working extremely reduced hours in the hospitality industry due to government closures, whilst his son Rupert, 2, has under-developed lungs due to prematurity meaning Martin changed jobs so he could work from home and shield his family.
Ada, Rupert’s twin sister, has been teaching her twin brother to speak.
The Eberle Family
Rose Eberle and her family have had a horrendous year, with their youngest son Naayt, 3, having his third open heart surgery in June.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the family of six were unable to support one another or visit the hospital, with Naayt’s parents having to visit the little man separately.
Rachel, 17, and Jake, 15, have been “fantastic” older siblings and have supported their parents as well as looking after younger brother Kayden, 8, while Naayt has been shielding.
Kayden has been working really hard at school and little brother Naayt has been very brave, never complaining about going into surgery. He absolutely loved speaking to Santa!
The Orchard Family
Rachel Orchard and her family of eight have struggled with little Matthew, 1, and his hospital visits this year. Suffering from down syndrome and other complex medical needs, his parents have had to take turns taking him to Bristol and Gloucester hospital.
His older siblings Alexander, Joshua, Elizabeth, Andrew and Thomas, have been very helpful and not complained about anything.
The Tough Family
Charlene Tough has really struggled with her mental health this year, especially as a single mum during lockdown with two young girls.
She explained how the pandemic made her feel like she could not venture out of the house, causing severe anxiety.
Her girls, Amelia, 7, and Annabella, 3, have been a ray of sunshine in the house but trying to get funds together for Christmas has proved exceptionally difficult for Charlene this year.
The Scott Family
Kirsty Scott and her family have had a tough few years.
Kirsty has been in and out of work due to an accident, tested positive for COVID-19 and then went on to have a baby boy this year who has a very rare genetic mutation, KCNT1.
Going back and forth to hospital throughout lockdown and finding money to keep food on the table has been a real challenge for Kirsty and her family.
The Eales Family
Rebecca, who runs a cleaning company, lost many of her clients in 2020 due to them needing to shield. This has meant she has struggled financially, which has affected her mental health too.
As a single mother of three, her daughters Amelia, 8, Isla, 4 and Ariella, 3, have been fantastic in helping her through and keeping her positive.
The Smith Family
Carol Ann Smith wanted to surprise her wonderful husband Manny to thank him for all he has done for her.
She has had a difficult year herself as she’s not been able to visit her children in America and has also retired early due to health reasons.
The Vernon Family
Sally Vernon was made redundant this year while her husband worked all the way through lockdown.
Due to COVID-19 their sons developed anxiety as a result of being stuck at home away from their friends and the learning environment provided at school.
Thankfully, the whole family are in a happier place approaching Christmas, with both boys back at school and loving it!
The Gray Family
Katie Gray and her family have struggled this year, like so many of us.
Katie’s son Dylan, 8, suffers with Congenital Central Hypo Ventilation Syndrome, but you wouldn’t know it as he works hard to stay super positive and upbeat!
Her husband was also made redundant, which added pressure to family life.
When BiGDUG arranged for Dylan to Zoom Santa, he even said that “Christmas isn’t all about presents”.
The Dunlop Family
Amy Dunlop has three energetic girls, Molly, 8, Leah, 7, and Phoebe, 4.
Her husband works away a lot in the food manufacturing industry and she has struggled with lockdown this year and looking after the girls at home, which has caused her stress and anxiety.
They are looking forward to a merrier Christmas though, and Amy is very proud of her girls and husband and the way they have coped with the ever-changing world.
The Villis Family
Debbie Villis nominated her husband Mike calling him her “hero” this year.
Despite Debbie recovering from cancer and having to shield due to Covid-19, Mike has had to continue working, having his hours cut severely, which has hugely impacted on their finances.
Mike is ‘Gloucester Rugby’s Biggest Fan’ so BiGDUG arranged for Willi Heinz and Matt Banahan to record a personal message for Debbie & Mike.
The company also donated its private viewing box at Kingsholm to Mike and Debbie to watch a home game as soon as they are allowed as part of the brand’s sponsorship with the club.
The Carpenter Family
Amanda Carpenter got in touch with BiGDUG to request a little help this Christmas as she lost her cleaning wages, which she usually saves to pay for the festive season.
Her husband has a heart and lung disease, and her “wonderful” son Tyler has been volunteering lots with the Sea Cadets, the RNLI Lifeboats and also Dr Charley’s lunch club for OAPs.
The Atkinson Family
Kate Atkinson and her dog Rolo have been working hard to stay strong as a family unit this year.
Kate, who suffers from Upper Motor Neurone disorder, has had a very difficult few years and has been dealing with abusive behaviour from someone in her past.
The Grindle Family
Alan Grindle and his “amazing” family have had a hard year, living in a static caravan on their farm during lockdown as their house was uninhabitable.
Alan helped out driving as a 4×4 volunteer for the NHS, delivering medicines to people shielding from coronavirus.
His daughters, Bryony, Amyleigh, Cerys, and Zoe have all been “amazing at staying positive” while being stuck in such small proximity during lockdown, helping their Mum and Dad look after the animals on the farm, including horses, donkeys and a llama and even three Alpaca’s.
The Bailey Family
Ollie Bailey, 18, got in touch with BiGDUG wanting to surprise his Mum and sister.
After losing his father four years ago, Ollie wanted to treat them to a Christmas to remember.
His Mum Lorraine and his sister Jaz, 16, were thrilled to receive their surprise.
The Ridler Family
Hayley Ridler is a single mum supporting five children and reached out to BiGDUG for a little help this Christmas after a challenging year.
Hayley says her children have been “incredible” this year during lockdown, with her older girls doing amazingly well at school with excellent reports!
The Brittain Family
Henry Brittain’s wife April is a community nurse, and has been “unbelievably brave” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Henry, who is also studying an NVQ Level 3 whilst working part time, and their little girls Florence and Henrietta, are incredibly proud of April and wanted to surprise her with a special Christmas treat.
The Andrews Family
Kim Andrews got in touch with BiGDUG as her mum Jenny, 80, has been shielding with and looking after her husband all year missing her church meetings and especially her friends.
The Hayes Family
Debbie Hayes is incredibly proud of her eldest son, Tailor, 15.
She says Tailor works really hard at school and then helps out with his younger brother, Marshall.
Marshall has a rare genetic mutation, cerebral palsy, global developmental delay and epilepsy, which takes up a lot of Debbie’s time.
Debbie calls Tailor “an absolute star” and says she can’t thank him enough for being the best ever big brother to Marshall.
The James Family
Natalie James has been working hard throughout lockdown as a volunteer helping women who have been a target of domestic abuse and setting up her own charity, Freedom Programme.
Despite this amazing work, Natalie felt that it has taken its toll on her son Harry so reached out.
The Hill Family
Ashleigh Hill has had a horrible year, losing both grandparents, her job and trying to raise her two-year-old son, during lockdown.
She says she is “very lucky” to have a supportive family but they have suffered their own financial woes too.
For more heart-warming videos of each family receiving their Christmas surprise from BiGDUG, check out their YouTube channel.
You can also still follow the wonderful journey of BiGDUG’s incredible ’24 days of Giving’ on their Facebook page.
We love good news! More importantly, we love it when people rally together to help each other. Know any unsung heroes? Got any kindness stories? Please send them in! We want the world to hear about good deeds from good people 🙂