Christmas won’t really be the same this year but it would have been even more grim for Carl and Janice Lewis if it hadn’t been for the generosity of football superstar Gareth Bale.
The Wales and Tottenham Hotspur player, 29, acted as Santa to 300 families across Swansea and stumped up the £15,000 cost of £50 hampers for every one of them.
He also offered up one of his shirts to help spread the Christmas cheer even further, as part of the South Wales Evening Post’s Everyone Deserves A Christmas appeal.
The aim of the appeal was to offer families who would otherwise struggle to meet the cost of buying a festive dinner a hamper packed full of Christmas treats.
Carl and Janice have received a hamper for two years running and they love finding out what surprises are tucked inside on the big day.
The couple both suffer with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which makes it a challenge to walk far and are living on benefits as a result of their ill health.
Carl, 65, of Waun Wen, Swansea, said: “I really, really want to thank Gareth Bale, he’s doing a marvellous job – he doesn’t have to do anything.
“He cares about people who are struggling. He does not have to do it – they should have more people like him around.
“I am over the moon- he doesn’t know me, I don’t know him – he’s doing it for strangers. I can’t fault him, it’s brilliant.”
He added: “I do not go anywhere or do anything or drink – for someone to do that, I am over the moon. We would have just had the basics on Christmas Day. I will have to buy a can and give him a toast.
“We did not expect it at all, we are very thankful. It’s very hard at Christmas, so it’s a nice surprise going into the hamper and seeing what you can’t afford.”
He said that everything in the hamper they didn’t need for Christmas Day, they would use in the future.
His wife Janice, 63, added: “It was great, it will make such a difference – tremendously. Christmas would be more of an everyday thing for us. We wouldn’t have anything special, we don’t go spending money that we can’t afford.
“The hamper has made Christmas more special. It would have just been normal food, the hamper really helps a lot. It’s surprising people are so kind.”
She added: “I am looking forward to Christmas because it has been a terrible year. It’s something to look forward to at least now. It will be more enjoyable this year.”
They said this year had been a struggle due to the knock-on effect of the Covid-19 crisis as it had been harder for them to go out due to the health risk.
Carl said: “We haven’t been going out – both of us are high-risk as we both have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and can’t walk far.
“We are on special pumps and are on benefits, so things are a bit hard.”
He added: “Anything we get is a bonus.
“It was a surprise to have the hampers last year, I can’t say thank you enough.
“We have been relying on food parcels because of Covid.”