Charities could not exist without their unsung heroes - the volunteers who selflessly offer their services and expect nothing in return. The same applies to Operation Santa Claus, the annual charity drive now in its 21st year. One of the stars so far this year has been Jan the Clown, aka Jan Preece, who once again was out entertaining children during a recent fund-raising event in Discovery Bay. The clown was keeping infants from the Discovery Mind Kindergarten amused as they embarked on a challenging 4km walk. 'Jan has entertained the children on several occasions for us but this was his second OSC event with us,' said the spokeswoman for the walk, Jane Wilson, head of the kindergarten's international section. 'The children really enjoy his show and it's a small reward for them all after the walk - it's quite a long walk if you have little legs.' This year Operation Santa Claus is raising money for 13 beneficiaries. The target is HK$10 million, with sums being wished for ranging from HK$60,000 for The Samaritans' failure-proof help hotline, to HK$750,000 for Hong Kong Unison's racial harmony project. The charity campaign faces a stiff challenge this year, coming in the middle of a global financial crisis. But volunteers have been working hard to urge people to chip in, saying that every dollar raised will really count for those in need. Operation Santa Claus raised HK$7.5 million in 2004, HK$12 million in 2005, HK$16 million in 2006 and HK$14 million last year - which was the operation's 20th anniversary. One of last year's beneficiaries, Little Life Warrior Society, has been refurbishing a resource centre located at Prince of Wales Hospital's Children's Cancer Centre that is due to open next month. Entering its third decade of giving, Operation Santa Claus is co-organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK. Part of the money raised will go to the SCMP Homes for Hope project to help victims of the Sichuan earthquake.