A SPECIAL Christmas Day dinner and party is being organised by a York family to bring festive cheer to people who would otherwise be alone.

Leonie Atherton, 31, and her family are hosting the 'Christmas Together' event, which will take place at Huntington Memorial Hall in York.

The free event will be for a maximum of 100 people who are facing being alone on Christmas Day.

Those who attend can enjoy a Christmas dinner, drinks and music. The family hope it will extend people’s social circles, so that next year, they hopefully will not have to spend Christmas alone.

Leonie said she has given money to charities for the elderly every Christmas, but this year wanted to help make a difference that she could see.

She explained: "I was initially planning on opening up our house but realised it wasn’t very feasible so I contacted the Huntington Memorial Hall with my idea to hold it there and they were instantly on board and so enthusiastic about our idea.

"It is a chance for people to be able to meet others in the area, socialise, get out of the house and enjoy Christmas.

"We want it to feel like a big family party and really want to show that you don’t have to be an organisation or charity to do something I like this.

"Hopefully the idea will spread next year and more people will host events like ours and it will help build a stronger community."

Leonie said loneliness at Christmas is not only an issue for older people.

She commented: "In a world where social events are becoming fewer and community spirit isn’t as strong as it once was, adults of all ages will find themselves spending Christmas alone or away from their families this year.

"Lots of people communicate with family and friends over FaceTime and phone calls these days but I feel that actual human interaction cannot be replicated over a mobile phone and can often leave people feeling more lonely. This isn’t just a problem for the elderly, with everyone from students to people with busy jobs spending much of their free time alone or away from their family."

Leonie and her family are relying on donations to host the event, and so far they have received £900 from Huntington Parish Council, £200 from the Memorial Hall, and contributions from local companies.

A crowdfunding page has been set up for anyone who would like to make a donation and support the event. Visit: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/christmastogether

The event is inclusive and open to everyone, but the family are particularly keen for people over 65 to attend.

It will start at 1pm and finish 9pm, with dinner being served at 3pm.

Anyone who would like to attend the event is asked to phone Leonie on 07708672410 or her mother Valerie Mollan on 07413 788276