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Northern Ireland Family Appeal 2013 - Making Christmas Brighter!

Those pictured (from left) are: Janna Tharun (Holy Family Primary pupil), Mark Adair (BBC's Head of Corporate and Community Affairs), Major Elwyn Harries (Divisional Commander), John McDonald (St Vincent de Paul), Tori Hackett (Holy Family Primary pupil), Iris Corry (Divisional Director for Community Services) and Jamie McGregor (St Vincent de Paul).

Thousands of children and young people across Northern Ireland will have a brighter Christmas this year thanks to The Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul.

The two charities have teamed up again, with broadcast support from BBC Northern Ireland, to launch the Family Appeal - an annual initiative aimed at easing some of the financial pressures facing families at this expensive time of year.

Last Christmas, the generosity of local communities and organisations allowed 13,163 gifts to be distributed to families across Northern Ireland. And with ongoing austerity in the run up to this holiday season, requests for assistance from the Appeal are expected to remain high.

The 2013 Family Appeal was launched in Broadcasting House, Belfast earlier today at an event hosted by the BBC's Head of Corporate and Community Affairs Mark Adair. Music was provided by pupils from Holy Family Primary School in Belfast with a brass ensemble from The Salvation Army's Belfast Temple and Citadel bands.

Mark said: "I am delighted to help launch this year’s Family Appeal which not only brings Christmas cheer to lots of local children and young people but offers valuable practical support to families at a time of real financial hardship. Every gift matters.”

Major Elwyn Harries, Leader of The Salvation Army in Ireland, said: "Many families continue to struggle during this current economic climate and that’s why this year, more than ever, the Family Appeal needs the support of everyone in Northern Ireland."

John McDonald, from the Society of St Vincent de Paul, said: “Many families are faced with financial challenges and uncertainty. We depend upon the generosity of people throughout Northern Ireland to support us in providing Christmas gifts. When making a donation we would encourage people to think about the needs of teenagers as well as younger children and to donate early.”

Gift donations can be accepted until Thursday December 12 at any branch of The Salvation Army, Society of St Vincent de Paul, Tesco, First Trust Bank, Open & Direct, and Ulster Property Sales. Other collection points are listed on the BBC NI website.

All gifts must be new and unwrapped and suitable for children and young people - from toddlers to teenagers. No teddy bears or soft toys are required. Family gifts of board games and tins of sweets or biscuits are always welcome.Teenagers appreciate gift tokens, CDs and toiletries.

If you feel you are eligible for support from The Family Appeal contact your local social worker, health visitor or local branch of either the Salvation Army or St Vincent de Paul for guidance notes and an application form. Requests for assistance must be received no later than Friday, December 6th.

Further information about The Family Appeal is available on the BBC's website here