A KIND-HEARTED football ace and his family played Santa Claus to put smiles on the faces of kids facing Christmas in hospital.

Kelty Hearts star Joe Cardle, and his partner Lucy, together with their daughters, Josie-Anne, eight, and Lyla-Jo, five, said 'ho ho ho' to youngsters in Victoria Hospital's children's ward after fundraising to donate a sack-full of goodies.

Thanks to the support of kids attending Joe's football academy, which is based in Dunfermline, and raffle donations from the likes of Real Madrid and Scotland star, Caroline Weir, his former club, Dunfermline Athletic and his current team, the couple raised just over £3,500 to buy items featuring on a 'wishlist' put together by staff for patients.

Joe and Lucy have fundraised and collected items to be donated to the Vic's children's ward following the birth of Lyla-Jo.

She arrived eight weeks prematurely, weighing just 3lbs 6ozs, and her parents went through the trauma of not being able to take her home while she was being looked after at the Special Care Baby Unit for three weeks.

They then decided to raise money for the fitting and maintenance of baby cams in premature baby incubators, before continuing to offer their support by organising collections at Christmas and Easter.

Joe, 35, paid tribute to Lucy for carrying out what he described as "a full-time job" behind the scenes, which contributed hugely to the final total raised, and said: "It's been ongoing for the last five, six weeks, and just to finish it all off on Monday was the end goal.

"I'm really happy with how it worked and obviously the raffle went really well; we had some amazing prizes. We had prizes from the likes of Caroline Weir, she donated a worn, signed Scotland top, Dunfermline gave us shirts, Kelty Hearts gave us shirts, even Jacqui Low, my old chairwoman at Partick Thistle, donated a couple of incredible prizes at Gleneagles.

"Just little things like that, the football world reaching out, playing their part and helping us as well, so a massive thank you to everyone that bought raffle tickets, donated money, donated prizes.

"We managed to beat last year. We raised £3,000 last year, so we managed to get just over £3,500 this year, so a lot of money generated. We managed to buy all the presents from the hospital's wish-list; there was a lot of DVD players and a lot of electronic IPads, stuff like that, a lot of technology stuff.

"I'm just delighted we played our part again, and been able to give back. It's just been a fantastic time.

"Obviously we know how lucky we are to be fit and healthy, and it just goes to show when you see the poor children that are going to be stuck in hospital over Christmas, to be able to just put a smile on one of these children's faces is what it's all about.

"Hopefully we've done that."

Joe, who was keen to thank everyone who helped out with their fundraising efforts, without whom "we wouldn't have got there in the end", added: "Don't get me wrong; still walking in those doors, and leaving those doors with my two healthy children, means so much to me.

"We've got a lot to thank them (the hospital staff) for, and that's why we manage to do these couple of things over the year.

"To raise £3,500 at this time of the year is a massive feat, and we're just delighted that we've done it."

An NHS Fife spokesperson said: "We are extremely grateful for every donation that is made to our children's ward. Joe and his family have been regular contributors to the treasure chest in recent years and it has made a positive difference to the experiences of children and young people on our ward.

"Our treasure chest is filled with gifts and toys, which children can choose from during of following their treatment. This can help cheer them up and make their stay with us a more positive experience. When children are admitted to hospital it can be an anxious time for both the child and their family. Play can help them adjust to a potentially stressful situation."