Christmas is always a time for giving, and many charities will benefit during this period of the year from the kindness and generosity of those who want to help other people to face their own challenges.
One charity close to the heart of the readers of this newspaper, and of many other people, is CLIC Sargent. This children's cancer charity is aiming to build two Homes From Home next year near the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and Belfast City Hospital where families can stay while their children are being given treatment.
This worthy cause has been the focus for the Belfast Telegraph Christmas Appeal in the past few weeks, and we are delighted to announce that we have now reached our target of £50,000 by Christmas Eve - which is today! The response from everyone has been overwhelming in raising the money across the community.
The supporters include people from local firms and businesses, schools, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the police, and many others who have involved themselves in all kinds of fund-raising activities. They include carol singing, collecting money from family, colleagues, friends and the general public, and by giving individual donations.
The campaign also had the firm backing of well-known public figures, including former champion boxer Barry McGuigan and his wife Sandra, the Ulster and Ireland international rugby player Stephen Ferris, the singer Brian Kennedy, the cookery expert Jenny Bristow, the Health Minister Edwin Poots and many others.
All of this support has been essential in raising the target of £50,000, but so too has been the help of our readers who have rallied most generously to assist this charity which is doing such good work.
The purpose of the CLIC Sargent initiative in building the Homes from Home is to provide accommodation beside two of Belfast's major hospitals for the families of sick children, and this will spare them the expense and effort of travelling often long distances to be with their loved ones who are being treated.
This helps to relieve some of the anxiety in an already stressful situation, and it assists the families and everyone else to concentrate on helping their children to get better. The charity is now hopeful that given such a good start, the building work should begin in the spring and that the centres can be completed by 2014.
However, there is still much to be done to help raise the total cost of £3.7m, and for those who are willing to help, there will be further fund-raising efforts in the coming year. These include a New Year's Day Dip at the East Strand in Portrush, the CLIC Sargent Malin Head to Mizen Head Cycle Race in May and also the annual Belfast City Marathon.
All these are exciting challenges for the future, but in the meantime all those who contributed in any way to the Belfast Telegraph Christmas Appeal this year deserve our thanks. It was a magnificent effort, and well done everybody!