Fund-raiser exceeds target despite global financial crisis Despite the global economic crisis, corporations, schools and individuals dug deep into their pockets for Operation Santa Claus 2008, donating a surprising HK$11,002,664 - more than the goal of HK$10 million. The target was set during the opening ceremony in mid-November for the 21st annual charity drive co-organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK, as the economic downturn started to bite. That HK$11 million will ensure that critical projects for 13 non-governmental organisations which serve tens of thousands of the underprivileged, poor and marginalised of society can proceed, at least for this year. Some of the cash will also go to the Post's Homes for Hope Project to help build earthquake-proof homes for victims of the devastating May 12 Sichuan earthquake last year. The Sichuan project is a 'dedicated programme to help 979 families from the two villages of Qingquan and Hongyan struck by the earthquake to rebuild their homes and to reconstruct roads, restore water supplies and electricity', Post editor C. K. Lau said. The project provides the quake survivors in Sichuan with new homes, new services and new hope for the future. The final figure for Operation Santa Claus 2008 was announced last night at a ceremony at The Apex, Central Plaza in Wan Chai. Corporate donors contributed about HK$9 million. Top donors cited last night were Morgan Stanley, whose directors' choir at The Elements Mall in Kowloon raised HK$1.4 million, Merrill Lynch whose series of golfing events raised HK$1.1 million, and a five-a-side football tournament organised by amateur players with white-collar day jobs, which raised HK$1.02 million. Schools raised more than HK$570,000, breaking the previous year's record. The top schools were Discovery Mind Kindergarten, whose baby brigade's charity walk generated HK$111,130, Diocesan Boys' School and Diocesan Boys' School Primary Division which chipped in HK$68,786.30, and St Mark's School, which raised HK$48,895.90. Mr Lau said: 'Despite the financial crisis, we were able not just to meet our target of HK$10 million, but also break it by raising HK$11 million. 'That is very good news to our 13 beneficiaries and the SCMP Homes for Hope project. We would like to thank our donors for their generosity during these difficult times.' Fund-raising activities the schools organised included charity walks, a soccer tournament, a dodgeball competition, a talent show and a 'famine camp'. The activities helped build team spirit among the participating students and spread the message of helping the needy, Mr Lau said. Individual donors contributed more than HK$850,000. One donor donated HK$100,000 online, out of the more than half a million dollars contributed online. Beneficiaries and their donors met last night at the Wan Chai ceremony, a long-held tradition within Operation Santa Claus which espouses the principles of accountability, transparency and philanthropy. Entertainment was provided by pianist Jezrael Lucero, pan-democrat legislators Ronny Tong Ka-wah and Alan Leong Kah-kit, who sang a duet, and dancers from the Youth Outreach School of Hip Hop, one of the 13 beneficiaries.