History of Operation Christmas Child


Dave Cooke, father of four from Wrexham, North Wales, sees the horror of abandoned children in Romanian orphanages on TV news and asks friends to help fill a truck with toys and drive it to Romania.

Overwhelming response from local people raises £60,000. Operation Christmas Child established as a charity.

12th December 1990, convoy of vehicles, including trucks donated by local companies, leaves for Romania with 17 local volunteers. Among the aid on the convoy were the first gift-filled shoeboxes. On their return the volunteers vow to continue the work.


American actor, Mr T attends the send off of 2nd Christmas convoy to Romania in December 1991.


Throughout the year, 22 trucks of aid sent to Albania, Belarus, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Serbia& Romania. First airlift of shoeboxes takes off in a Hercules plane from Hawarden Airport

Neighbour’s Allessi twins attend the send off and Michael Jackson endorses the campaign on a satellite phone-in.


Aid filled trucks leave throughout the year for Moscow, Bosnia & Croatia, Poland & Romania. At Christmas, a 10-vehicle convoy of aid leaves Wrexham for Romania.

Songs of Praise with Alan Titchmarsh broadcast from Wrexham with live link up to Operation Christmas Child convoy team in a church in Romania.

The Biggest Cargo plane in the world – the Antonov 124 – takes 60,000 shoeboxes to Zagreb, hundreds of local school children attend the send off from Liverpool airport.

Operation Christmas Child builds and opens a family style orphanage in Cluj Romania.

Medical aid sent to Rwanda in response to the genocide.

Liverpool Daily Post back Operation Christmas Child with the ‘Wake up to Bosnia’ Supplement.

250,000 shoeboxes sent to Bosnia & Croatia, Serbia, Kenya, Rwanda, Russia, Romania, Hungary and Albania


Operation Christmas Child merges with Samaritan’s Purse, with the shoebox appeal being launched by Samaritan’s Purse in other countries around the world.

280,000 boxes are distributed across Kenya, Rwanda, Moscow, Romania, Bosnia, Hungary, Albania and Serbia.

Special feature on BBC Children’s Newsround.


Over a million shoeboxes are sent from Samaritan’s Purse around the world to 36 countries.

Dave Cooke travels to Armenia with Baroness Cox.

1st Football Project (sOCCer) is held in Bosnia.

Parcel Force lends vans and assists with collections.

500,000 shoebox leaflets printed.


Aid trips to Bulgaria, Belarus, Serbia, Armenia and Bosnia.

BIG plane flies from Liverpool to Armenia on 15th December.

Christian singer, Nia, becomes honorary Vice President of Operation Christmas Child.


BIG Plane lift off from Liverpool to Armenia.

OCC launches first website.

Operation Christmas Child receives widespread media coverage, including coverage on GMTV.

Alan Shearer shows his support.

1.5 million shoebox leaflets printed.


Dave Cooke visits Crimea Ukraine to pave the way for shoebox distributions.

£310,000 donated for Kosovan Refugee crisis in Macedonia.

Volunteer work team builds playparks in Jakovica.


Shoeboxes sent to Honduras.

Aid sent by plane to Chechen refugees.

Soccer projects take off in Azerbaijan.

World Wide Message Tribe appear on Operation Christmas Child video.

Tony and Cherie Blair donate a shoebox.

KwikFit depots give their support.

John Prescott visits the warehouse in Hull following devastating floods in the area.


Over 1 million shoeboxes sent from the UK.

Shoeboxes, aid and ‘tent boxes’ distributed to Afghan refugees.

GMTV promote Operation Christmas Child.

Donny Osmond, Linda Robson, Clair Sweeney, Cherie Blair and Ant and Dec give their support and endorse the shoebox appeal.

Love in a Box – The Inspiring Story of Dave Cooke is published.


1,149,351 shoeboxes sent to 15 countries from 30 warehouses across the UK.

Samaritan’s Purse opens a warehouse in Woodford Green.

Boxes of Hope appeal launched to provide food, clothing and tools.


Water filter project launched.

1,258,919 shoeboxes sent from the UK and Ireland.

Soccer and summer camps expand across Crimea, Moscow, Belarus, Hungary and Armenia.


National Shoebox Sunday launched with sermons, PowerPoint presentation and drama made available.

Shoebox Sunday at Liverpool Cathedral with Simon Thomas from Blue Peter.

Mozambique and Kyrgyzstan receive shoeboxes for the first time.


1,171,789 shoeboxes are collected and sent from the UK.

Dave Cooke organises the London Bus Tour and invites Debora Randall to speak about HIV and AIDS.

National Shoebox Sunday held in Central Hall, Westminster.


Soccer camps held in Liberia.

Summer camps run in Azerbaijan and Belarus.

1,233,400 shoeboxes are sent from the UK.


Turn on the Tap campaign launched to raise money for easy access to safe water.

1.3 million shoeboxes distributed from the UK.


1.2 million shoeboxes leave the UK for 13 countries.

Turn on the Tap Challenge – Walk for Water encourages MPs and thousands of people to raise money for water projects in Liberia, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Niger.


1,189,547 shoeboxes sent to 14 countries from the UK.

OCC Facebook page is launched.

‘Give this Christmas Away’ – a joint venture with Veggie Tales is launched.


The campaign resulted in 1.12 million shoeboxes from the UK and Ireland. It also saw the launch of ‘Shoebox World’ which allows donors the make a virtual shoebox on-line including a message and a photo of themselves. The shoebox was then made up in a warehouse and despatched overseas.


Operation Christmas Child reaches the amazing milestone of delivering over 100 million gift-filled shoeboxes in 23 years!