As we approach our final week of the 2020 appeal, we also take time to honour a significant anniversary for our founder, Dave Cooke:
On the 12th December, 30 years ago, an aid convoy left Wrexham, enroute to Romania; and, unexpectedly started what would become the largest gift program in the world.
Moved by the images shown of children in orphanages (after the fall of Ceaușescu’s regime), our founder, then a window-fitter and carpenter, brought together family and friends to send essential items including medical supplies, food, bedding and clothing.
Alongside those 7 wagons of aid, were a couple thousand Shoeboxes, inspired by an idea in the family to send the children a ‘Christmas stocking’ in a box.
In an attempt to boost the country’s population, Ceaușescu had made abortion illegal and introduced financial incentives to mothers to have more than five children, but this led to a large numbers of infants abandoned in heart-wrenching conditions in the country’s orphanages.
“Here I was, just a carpenter, who was not used to seeing children in this kind of condition. The extent of it was massive. We really had no idea what the impact of the shoeboxes would be. It was beyond words, the impact they made to these children – who had never received anything, not even a cuddle. In their lives they’d received absolutely zero.” Dave Cooke
After that first convoy, Dave never looked back. His first charity merged with a much larger American organisation and grew to become the biggest global gift program ever.
Though Dave moved on, setting up Teams4U in 2006, he has always been humbled and amazed by what has been achieved by his first shoebox program since its humble beginnings from his garage all those years ago!
Since 2013 Teams4U have run our own separate Shoebox Appeal:
“I know it seems strange that we now run our own distinct Appeal, but people kept asking me to start again and really it was quite hard to say no. This all began here in the UK, and thirty years on I’m frankly amazed we’re still here, giving children a reason to smile at Christmas all over the world.”
“You know the looks on the children’s faces when they receive a box, that never leaves you. These gifts don’t fix the problems in their lives, but they make a difference, showing these children that someone, somewhere cares for them. Each box is just a gift, no strings attached, no added conditions, just a box from your hand to theirs, to brighten their day and make them feel special. It doesn’t matter which charity you do a box for, local, international, wherever, what matters is we’re all doing our best to give a child a reason to smile.”
So what’s next for our Dave? “Poverty hasn’t gone away, so whilst we still have to grapple with global issues of disparity, inequality and the pain caused by discrimination and conflict, I’m going to do my best to keep making whatever difference I can – I’m only in my 60s, there’s plenty of fuel in the tank left! I’m supported by an amazing team of staff and volunteers and I feel we all just need to keep working together in pursuit of a fairer world.”
You can still support our Shoebox Appeal until 18th December through our Sponsor-a-Box scheme.