This year marks 25 years since the Wrexham-based charity Operation Christmas Child was set up to help the plight of Romanian orphans in early 1990s.
The charity captured the imagination of ordinary people and celebrities alike, even gaining endorsements from the likes of Michael Jackson and Mr T of ‘A’ Team fame, as well as recognition from the White House.
Now, Dai Hughes, who co-founded the charity, has written a personal account of how his simple shoebox gift idea turned into a worldwide phenomenon.
Operation Christmas Child: True Beginnings which is published this week, is a 25th anniversary celebration and tribute to the thousands of people who got behind the campaign to help the plight of the orphans in 1990.
The book will no doubt spark proud memories in anyone who rallied to the cause and sent a buzz around Chester and North Wales back then.
Today, 125 million shoebox gifts have been distributed; sent to some of the most war-ravaged countries on the planet, and at the same time raised millions of pounds for children in greatest need.
Now a father of four, Hughes in his book retells the escapades and the dramas that went with spearheading a media campaign from humble beginnings.
With 170 pictures from his personal collection True Beginnings will remind readers of why the charity touched so many hearts.
Dai said: “This book is a tribute to all of those who climbed aboard ‘the convoy of love’ and helped bring this dream to life. Without the support of people across North Wales and Cheshire, particularly in my hometown of Wrexham this would never have got off the ground.
“It’s down to their enthusiasm and generosity that we were able to do what we did.
“It seems crazy now in our risk averse society that we were able to drive rickety trucks through Romania, hire a Hercules plane to fly to Croatia with aid and shoebox gifts, then top it off the next Christmas in 1994 by hiring the world’s biggest aircraft, packed to its roof with boxes lovingly filled with sweets and toys and photographs and letters lovingly given by school children throughout the region – destination Bosnia – at the height of a civil war!
“This was all before the era of the internet and social media – it was an idea that was spread by word of mouth and a marketing campaign that captured the imagination of the world. My book is for everyone who climbed aboard the convoy of love.”
Operation Christmas Child True Beginnings by Dai Hughes, with illustrations by
John Thirsk, is available to buy from Ebay and Waterstones in Chester and Wrexham for £10.