Santa Meets Wimbledon Youngsters

Grotto is raising funds for charity

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(L-R) Joan Henry, a volunteer at Volunteer Centre Merton, with grotto helper Rachael Seaforth-Brown and Santa, with youngsters Rose and Merlin Lewis, and mum Leslie Lewis

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Santa's Grotto opened at Wimbledon's Centre Court Shopping Centre this weekend, to visits from almost 200 children in the first two days.

The Grotto, which this year is raising money for the Volunteer Centre Merton, opened at midday on Saturday (November 30), and by centre's closing on Sunday afternoon, Santa had already received 193 little visitors.

The Volunteer Centre is a charity which works with a wide range of organisations in the public, voluntary and community sectors, helping develop skills, match volunteers to vacancies, and helping out in a variety of different ways, including managing the home visits library service and running a youth action team.

Last year, the grotto helped to raise £13,000 for Merton Music Foundation, and the shopping centre is hoping this year will be equally as successful.

Samantha Brown, marketing manager for Centre Court, said: "Each year, we have more than 2,500 children visit Santa in his grotto – and now we’ve had almost a tenth of that figure through our doors on the first weekend.

"It was a really busy opening, but massive fun, and to see the centre full of children so excited to see Santa has given everyone a boost, and really helped us all get into the Christmas spirit for the launch of our advert calendar on Thursday."

The centre’s retailers have come up with a host of fantastic gifts to give away to one lucky person each day as the shopping centre counts down the 24 days until Christmas, including a Sony tablet worth £399 and jewellery worth more than £100.

To enter, go to the centre's website each day www.centrecourtshopping.co.uk and register. The winner will be chosen at random each day at 4pm.

"Santa has really started the festive season in style - the charity collection is off to a flying start, which is wonderful news for the Volunteer Centre, and we are all looking forward to a busy December," added Samantha.

Santa's grotto will be open daily from 12-4pm from now until December 11, and then from 11am until 5pm until Christmas.

November 30, 2011