In its 15-year history, Operation Santa Claus has raised a staggering $56.8 million and extended a helping hand to thousands of people in Hong Kong and beyond. It has provided special counsellors for young cancer patients, boosted services for the disabled and maintained lifelines to young people fighting drug addiction. It has also aided orphans and disabled children on the mainland. The appeal in its current form was launched jointly by the South China Morning Post and RTHK in 1988. In its first year, it brought in $101,000 for the Watchdog charity. From that modest beginning grew an annual event which was to capture Hong Kong's community spirit and generosity. The appeal crashed through the one-million-dollar mark in 1989, raising $1.5 million for the Children's Cancer Fund. The highest annual amount was raised in 1991 when about $6 million was collected to help expand the work of the Children's Cancer Foundation in Hong Kong. Even in times of economic downturn, the community has pulled together to ensure the success of the campaign. Last year's effort brought in $3.2 million for the Pathways Foundation, a group which helps children with learning difficulties. The Post's marketing director, Amanda Turnbull, believes the public will continue its full support this year. 'We have always found our readers to be very responsive and we are sure they will respond to the challenge this year.'