The charity team running an autism-friendly Christmas grotto in Port Sunlight garden centre say they have been inundated with offers of support from the public following a burglary in which children’s presents were stolen from sacks inside the grotto.

Rick Myers, Autism Together’s fundraising officer said, “We’ve been blown away by the response. It’s been overwhelming. We posted a simple message on our Facebook page telling our followers about the theft. It went viral and before we knew it, it had reached over 100,000 people. We’ve had hundreds of messages of support and encouragement, people have set up fundraising pages and even brought along beautifully wrapped gifts.”

Autism Together’s grotto is raising funds for the charity’s Respite Appeal. An acute shortage of autism-specific respite care in Merseyside means many families are reaching breaking point. The appeal’s objective is to raise £120,000 to build two additional rooms onto an existing respite care home, The Ferns, at Raby Hall in Bromborough.

The grotto was expected to raise £3,000 toward the appeal. Rick Myers said, “We’re at £3,300 and we’ve still got several busy grotto sessions left.

“We’d particularly like to thank the Merseyside Police Federation for their £250 donation, Lorna Mills, for her brilliant fundraising on our behalf, and Julie Povall, who set up a crowd funding page for us.  Nearly £650 has been raised. The money has helped us replace the stolen presents and the surplus will all go to our fundraising appeal.”

Anyone with information about the break-ins should contact police on 101 or Crime Stoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.