A GROUP of big-hearted young people will be once again spreading some festive cheer by throwing party for those who may find themselves alone this Christmas — and this year they are calling on businesses as they plan one of the borough's biggest seasonal gatherings.

For the past four years, a team of students at Thornleigh Salesian College have been organising a Christmas Party for senior citizens within the local community, including those who might be spending the festive period alone.

They were inspired by a story in assembly about a woman in Devon, who made the headlines for paying for lunch for every senior citizens in her village.

Gary Whiting, from the school, said: "At the end of the assembly , I had a huge queue of youngsters waiting to do something similar for our local area.

"So we did. Initially for 50 guests. Four years later we have grown to the even to include 135 senior citizens from the local community."

Every year, guest enjoy canapes, champagne, full Christmas meal, post-meal refreshments and entertainment by the students and staff choir as well as a present and a card — with former students asking to return to be part of the special festive occasion.

The students raise money for almost everything themselves, totalling over £2,000 last year and nearly £10,000 to date.

Last year the staff contributed by paying for the meal of a guest. The party was listed in the top 40 seasonal events in Greater Manchester.

This year, the team are aiming for 150 senior citizens and are looking to local businesses to sponsor the drinks or decorations for a table alongside the students' fundraising — and the possibility of a local celebrity attending too. Businesses which step up this festive period will have a chance to send cards and have the company's name of the day highlighted through signage.

Mr Whiting: "I appreciate it is a busy time of year for everyone, the chance to stop and enjoy the company of strangers is worth the investment of time and money that we all make, especially if we consider that this might be the only Christmas celebration that those guests enjoy with other people."

Pupils will be packing bags at Asda in Astley Bridge on November 30 and December 7

Businesses or people wishing to help should ring 01204 301351 or christmas@thornleigh.bolton.sch.uk to