Santa has made an early appearance this year to surprise about 30 children and their families during a Christmas party at Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre, a support facility in the northwestern Hong Kong town of Tuen Mun. “Ho ho ho!” chanted Victor Chao, managing director of financial services firm Credit Suisse, which organised the event, as he proved a convincing Father Christmas in full costume. Chao was greeted by plenty of smiling faces as excited children queued up for a hug and photo with Santa Claus. He said he had been nominated by colleagues for the role because he was “less skinny” than co-workers who had donned the suit in previous years. Nevertheless he was delighted to take on the job despite worries about whether his belt would hold up as children tried to grab his legs. “It’s my first time being Santa and it feels good,” he said. “I feel a little warm, a little itchy in my costume, but otherwise fine. Just a little worried that my trousers will fall off!” Chao said he took great pleasure in seeing the children so excited and joyful, although one child expressed scepticism after spotting Santa’s tie peeking out from the V-neck on his costume. “It’s certainly very meaningful for me to be Santa, as opposed to trying to get something from Santa,” Chao said. This is the ninth year that Credit Suisse has raised funds for Operation Santa Claus, a charity campaign jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK. Changing lives for good: Operation Santa Claus launches 30th instalment This year the financial services provider has chosen Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre as its beneficiary, a facility at Tuen Mun Hospital that provides support for those affected by the disease. The children and their families were taught how to make Christmas ornaments out of ribbons by Credit Suisse volunteers, who also let the youngsters have fun with face paints before handing out presents and serving a Christmas feast. Mak Miu-tong, who joined the party with her five-year-old grandson, said it was the first time she had felt such festive warmth, and she thanked the organisers. “I feel very surprised that there is so much fun here at the centre,” Mak said. “I didn’t know Santa would be here along with presents for my grandson.” Mak sought counselling from the centre several years ago after her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Yung Ching, aged nine, said it was fun making the ornaments and he hoped Santa would bring him more toys this year. Carsten Stoehr, Credit Suisse board chairman and head of financing for Asia-Pacific, said it was his first visit to the centre and he had found it a very special, positive and welcoming place. “In a small way we can make a difference in people’s lives by helping people through Maggie’s and other institutions,” Stoehr said. “I think it’s very rewarding, and personally it’s a very positive emotion to see, and the kids are very excited.” How Operation Santa Claus started Liza Green, Credit Suisse corporate citizenship vice-president, said it was great to see the children and their families with such happy faces, and the event was a real highlight of the group’s charity work. “We spend a lot of time planning our activities, a lot of effort fundraising, communicating with our staff, but actually coming here, meeting the children, meeting the beneficiaries, that’s really the highlight,” she said. “That brings everything together and really creates meaning in what we are trying to do.” The firm plans to raise more funds though several other events before the end of the year. “We are very impressed with the work Maggie’s is doing and we have also chosen them [as the beneficiary] for a run we have in Hong Kong that’s in memory of our late Asia-Pacific CEO who passed away from cancer,” Green said. She expressed hope that a coming holiday party involving nearly 2,000 staff would bring in more funds for Maggie’s.