Operation Santa Claus has raised a record HK$21 million in its latest campaign, proof of Hong Kong's generous spirit.
Over the past 26 years, the media-led charity drive has channeled HK$209 million from individuals, groups and corporate donors to 194 projects that help disadvantaged children, the disabled, the elderly and others.
Through its two organisers, the South China Morning Post and RTHK, Operation Santa Claus gives crucial exposure to lesser-known charities and helps fund some of their activities.
"People were saying, 'You can't imagine how important the publicity is for us, it's just as important as the money. It helps us build relationships with the donors; it helps us in raising funds in the years to come'," Bryan Curtis, head of English programming at RTHK, said at the campaign's closing ceremony yesterday.
Non-permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal, Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary, said in his keynote speech: "The history [of Operation Santa Claus] is a most honorable one, reflecting most creditably on those who over the years have given so generously of their time to organising this splendid effort, and equally to those who donated their wealth great or small to supporting it."
Donors and beneficiaries came together at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Wan Chai yesterday to celebrate the series of fundraising efforts in the business sector, community and schools in the past three months.
This year, HK$21,098,533 was raised for 18 charity projects. The sum surpassed last year's record of HK$18,780,236.
"It is very important to shed light on the less fortunate in the community. We have a social responsibility to report on those issues so more people can be aware of them, and also paying tribute to the great work done by the charities, as well as the many companies and individuals who have participated," Post editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei said.
Director of broadcasting Roy Tang Yun-kwong added: "I'm impressed by the colourful combination of big and small events."
To echo Operation Santa Claus' sprit of giving, barrister Neville Sarony SC wrote new lyrics to the Christmas classic Santa Claus is Coming to Town. "Open your wallets, open your hearts, now is the time for some money to part - Operation Santa's come to town," he sang at yesterday's event.
UBS was this year's top fundraiser, contributing more than HK$5 million, a record amount for a single donation. It came just a day after Morgan Stanley raised HK$3.2 million.
The most creative award went to Swire Properties, which organised a two-day street fair.
Craig Shute, senior managing director of real estate services firm CBRE, said of the fundraising football game it organised involving corporate players and children with special needs: "The joy that you see in these kids is just something special."
A special souvenir was presented to Curtis, who is retiring after 12 years as one of the campaign organisers.