Ex-Canary Darren Huckerby teams up with Santa

Father Christmas received a helping hand from a Norwich City legend in spreading some Christmas cheer amongst patients at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital yesterday.

Former Canaries favourite Darren Huckerby was on hand to deliver presents to patients on the children's Buxton Ward, Jenny Lind Children's Unit and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

The last of those is currently trying to raise �500,000 for new building work, hi-tech neonatal cots and new equipment for the average 850 critically ill or premature babies that they care for each year through their Cots for Tots campaign.

Mr Huckerby was keen to lend his support to the campaign under the auspices of the charity he established this year, The Darren Huckerby Trust, before going on to put some smiles on faces that have been suffering a tough time. He said: 'Cots for Tots is a really important campaign that I hope we can help out a little. I've never been involved with a premature birth but my lad (Thomas) had a bit of a fit on the morning of a game when I was playing for Norwich. I had to bring him up here to the hospital and they fortunately got him sorted out really quickly.

'I then had to go off to our game and leave him and that was hard so I got a bit of a taste of what it is like for parents of ill children.'

The former Canaries star helped Father Christmas deliver a massive haul of presents which arrived in a big Jarrold's van, as the city retailer lent its support to The Darren Huckerby Trust and the Cots for Tots campaign.

One of the lucky children to get a visit was five-year-old Daniel Laxton from Diss, who is looking forward to boasting to his dad that he got to meet the former City player. 'Daniel's dad (Scott Laxton) is a season ticket holder and we have a Huckerby shirt on our wall so we'll have to make sure we tell him,' Daniel's mum Lauren Chapman joked. 'Daniel hasn't been able to see Santa yet this year because he has been ill all the last week so this has been lovely.'

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Another patient happy to get an early Christmas present was Jack Cottingham, aged 10, from Dereham.

His father Ian said: 'It makes the children very happy. It's good of them to organise to come round and it is nice just before Christmas.'

Ward sister on the Buxton Ward Emma Dolman was delighted to see the guest appearance of the duo lift spirits ahead of a time of the year that can be difficult for many on the ward.

She said: 'It is the worst time of the year to be in hospital for anyone so anything that makes this time a bit better is great.'

If you would like to donate online to the Cots for Tots appeal please visit www.justgiving.com/norwichnicu

Are you planning to raise some money for the Cots for Tots campaign? Contact Evening News reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk