For many people, Christmas is a time to get together and relax at the end of the year, enjoying an atmosphere of fun and laughter. But for some families, the upcoming festive season will be an altogether more difficult time, especially if loved ones are dealing with the effects of cancer.
Take Haley Pearson, who tells today of how her 18-year-old daughter Leah died just five months ago following a fatal fit brought on by a brain tumour.
She is now facing the first Christmas without her beloved eldest child, and anyone would forgive her if she did not want to take part in the celebrations this year.
However, instead Haley is joining scores of staff and patients who are already backing the Christmas Star Appeal, which launched on Saturday and is supported by The Star.
The appeal is being held in aid of Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity, which cares for thousands of people battling the disease every year.
Taking part is extremely easy - all readers have to do is send a donation to the good cause, and in return they will receive a special silver star, which they can hang on their Christmas tree as a reminder of their generosity.
Weston Park is one of only four dedicated cancer hospitals in England, and provides care to a population of almost 1.8 million across South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire.
The site is also home to an internationally-renowned research facility, alongside an information and support centre offering drop-in visits to patients and family members.
Meanwhile, the charity has to raise around £200,000 every year to fund services – and it is hoped the Christmas Star Appeal will collect more than £15,000 in total.
At a time when the run-up to December 25 is becoming more commercialised than ever - and arguably unwarranted attention is given to the quality of department stores’ annual advert campaigns, and whether High Street shops will make sufficient profits - the Star Appeal is a salutory reminder that Christmas should, in fact, be a time for giving. Now is the time for us all to do our bit.