THE BLOG
11/23/2016 10:53 am ET Updated Nov 24, 2017

There Is Always Someone You Can Help: How My Nan Inspired Me To Become A #GivingTuesday Champion

Giving Tuesday

Christmas has always been a special time of the year for me and my family. It's about so much more than presents. It's a day to be together, to share laughter, to love, and to look back on the last 12 months.

As a young girl, my great nan Elsie Richardson was a big part of our Christmas. She loved this time of year, and we were very close.

Each year we would make Christmas fairies together, decorate all the trees at her accommodation, and prepare bags of sweets for the school choirs that would come to sing for her and the other residents. Nan would always be the person others looked to for help.

In 2012, nan became ill and as December approached, her health continued to deteriorate to the point where she was going to have to spend Christmas in the hospital. I was devastated. I could not imagine Christmas without her being there with us, exchanging gifts, serving up the Christmas dinner, playing games, and bringing the love and laughter that made Christmas such a special day.

I decided that if nan couldn't come for Christmas, we would take Christmas to nan. With some pocket money I went out to buy some gifts and decorations for us to take to her in the hospital.

On our regular visits, it struck me how many other patients were going to be spending Christmas alone and away from their loved ones. With the help of my family I began asking people in my local area if they would donate something to help bring Christmas to the hospital.

The response was fantastic. We collected about 250 presents, including toys, toiletries and games, which we delivered to the children's wards and a local care home. I was happy we were able to bring Christmas to nan and to many others.

That year was my nan's last Christmas. She sadly passed away in March 2013. It was a very hard time for my family. Not long before her death, I was diagnosed with ME and one thing I knew was that I wanted to keep her amazing spirit and her love for helping others alive.

The following September, I officially launched a Charity Secret Santa campaign in nan's memory. I started a social media page, spoke to local radio stations, collected donations in supermarkets, and got the local community and school involved. We managed to collect 650 gifts that year, which we gave to charities, hospices and care homes. It felt like nan was still with us.

The appeal has grown ever since. In 2014, we delivered over 2,000 gifts and hosted a tea party for the elderly at nan's old residence. Last year, we handed out 4,000 gifts and distributed food parcels to the homeless and emergency care packages to a woman's refuge shelter. We also had a giant wrapping party for people to share in the festive celebrations. It was wonderful to have so many people involved.

Nan always said, "Always remember there is always someone, somewhere you can help. Give them your time and, especially at Christmas, give them love and kindness."

Since my last Christmas with nan, I have collected and delivered gifts to thousands of people including premature babies, the homeless, and the elderly. I have hosted parties with Frank Sinatra entertainers, handed food parcels to homeless people in Oxford, and listened to some amazing and inspiring stories from some wonderful elderly people. This is what Christmas means to me now. It's about giving your time and compassion as well as your money.

It's why I'm so excited to be part of this year's #GivingTuesday. Doing something good doesn't have to be a grand expensive gesture. It can be something as simple as popping round for a cup of tea with someone who has been ill or spending an hour or two volunteering at your local care home or hospital. There are hundreds of ways to do good on #GivingTuesday, and as nan said, "There is always someone somewhere you can help."

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the #GivingTuesday Team at 92nd Street Y, to celebrate #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement, and the series (which will feature content throughout November) aims to celebrate how people are giving back around the world. For more information about #GivingTuesday, visit here. And to join the conversation on social media, use the hashtag #GivingTuesday.