FOOTBALL favourite Joe Cardle has helped spread festive joy by donating more than £3,000 worth of gifts to children at Victoria Hospital.

The 34-year-old Kelty Hearts star and his partner Lucy-Anne Patterson embarked on another fundraising drive to support the children's unit at the hospital.

Joe and Lucy delivered what nurses said was the biggest collection of gifts they had received in one donation with their daughters, seven-year-old Josie-Anne, and four-year-old Lyla-Jo, on what he described as a "very proud" and "emotional" day.

When Lyla-Jo was born eight weeks early, weighing just 3lbs 6oz, the couple went through the trauma of not being able to take her home while she received care for three weeks at the Special Care Baby Unit.

After that, they decided to raise money towards fitting and maintaining baby cams in premature baby incubators, and have since continued to support the children's unit by organising a gift collection at Christmas, as well as chocolate eggs and other goodies at Easter.

Joe said that a raffle which was organised raised around £2,000, to help fund the gifts, while another £1,000 was raised through the football academy that he runs in Dunfermline.

He told the Times: "It was a very proud moment, even though it was an emotional one at that.

"We're very proud that we're able, as a family and as an academy, to be able to do this.

"I want to thank everyone that donated money, donated prizes, bought raffle tickets - everyone that put their hand in their pocket and made this happen. Lucy's done an amazing job; we're very proud of how she's organised this for the last couple of months, and everyone that's been able to donate.

"I know times are hard for all of us, but everyone's dipped into their pockets; all my friends, people through the football as well. It's just great that everyone seems to come together and has helped us out in this climate.

"A couple of nurses were crying, they said it's the biggest they've ever received. That kind of says it all. They've never seen anything like it, that amount of gifts being handed over in one sitting, so for them to say that, they were emotional, so that was getting us emotional as well.

"It speaks volumes for what we've managed to do. It's a great thing that we've done but we'll carry on doing it. It's the least we can do."

When asked if he and Lucy-Anne felt emotional returning to the hospital, Joe continued: "That's how it felt.

"When wee Lyla was there, it was a very turbulent time for us all, so when Lyla was handing over the gifts, that's when it hit home. We were left helpless in there for quite a long time, relying on these guys to do their magic, and they managed to do that.

"It means so much to us. We know, we've been there, we've experienced it ourselves, so every Christmas and Easter, we like to give a little bit back."

To find out more about the Joe Cardle Academy, you can find them on Facebook.