Fund-raiser exceeds target despite global financial crisis Operation Santa Claus donors and beneficiaries were surprised and delighted last night to learn the annual charity drive raised 'a fantastic' HK$11,002,664 in 2008. The announcement drew gasps and 'wows' from those gathered at last night's closing ceremony at The Apex atop Central Plaza in Wan Chai. The co-organisers of the 21st annual charity drive, the South China Morning Post and RTHK, had been expecting just HK$7 million, as the economic downturn started to bite, RTHK's Bryan Curtis said. But they still announced an ambitious HK$10 million goal. When the campaign ended on December 31, HK$8.4 million was locked in. But last night, as magician Albert Tam rolled out a deck of purple number cards, the 'magical sum' raised was revealed. That HK$11 million ensures critical projects for 13 non-governmental organisations that serve tens of thousands of underprivileged, poor and marginalised people can proceed, at least for this year. About HK$2.9 million will also go to the Post's Homes for Hope project to help nearly 1,000 families in the Sichuan village of Qingquan rebuild homes destroyed in last year's earthquake. Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Duncan Pescod commended the 'enabling project' led by the private sector. 'The fact you have been able to generate HK$11 million-plus at a time when everybody understands it has been difficult for banks, companies and even for individuals, shows you have achieved something beyond just money,' he said. Director of broadcasting Franklin Wong Wah-kay said: 'This record amount is a surprise. We are surprised by the size of the donation in this very difficult year.' Post editor C.K. Lau paid tribute to the organisers and volunteers who worked behind the scenes. 'They must be doing something good for the community,' he said. 'That is why people have been generous.' Top donor Morgan Stanley donated HK$1.4 million. Managing director Vincent Chui Yik-chiu said his colleagues were enthused because they were 'very charitable and realise people like ourselves who have some capacity to give will give more'. We wanted to do a good job and raise more than in 2007,' he said. Merrill Lynch donated HK$1.1 million. Spokeswoman Danielle Gernandt said: 'The Hong Kong community really came together in a very difficult year and Merrill Lynch is really proud to be part of it again.' Another top donor was the five-a-side football tournament organised by amateur players with white-collar day jobs. Their efforts produced HK$1.02 million. Beneficiaries were grateful. Timothy Teoh Sim-chuan, founding chairman of the Lions Kidney Educational Centre and Research Foundation, said: 'It is fantastic that at this time of the year and this economic situation we can raise that money. We as a beneficiary are very thankful.' Schools raised more than HK$570,000, breaking the previous year's record. The top school was Discovery Mind Kindergarten, whose baby brigade's charity walk generated HK$111,130. Last night's entertainment was provided by visually impaired pianist Jezrael Lucero, pan-democrat legislators Ronny Tong Ka-wah and Alan Leong Kah-kit, who sang Relying On Love, and dancers from the Youth Outreach School of Hip Hop.