It is no understatement to say this year has been an unprecedented time in our nation’s history.

The last four months has seen all our lives turned upside down as our country has been fighting an invisible enemy that has devastatingly claimed lives of so many, up and down the country.

At a time of national peril, the Gazette asked our readers to dig deep to help support those on the NHS’s frontline.

And our warm-hearted readers did not let us down.

Over the course of the past four months, with generosity that has been both exemplary and tear-jerking, thousands of you have donated our newspaper group Newsquest’s Support Our Guardian Angels appeal.

Donations flooded in thick and fast.

Across the country, readers pledged cash to back individual hospital trusts, charities and NHS Charities Together.

All funds have been a much-needed boost to the health service in their hour of need.

In total, more than £503,990 has been raised.

It was used for wellbeing packs and gifts for NHS staff, food deliveries and refreshments, covering the cost of travel and accommodation.

And people across Colchester and north Essex were also doing their bit to help give the NHS a boost.

Thalia Kinde, ten, decorated the entire front of her parents’ four-bed house in rainbow chalk.

The St George’s New Town Junior School pupil wanted to show her support for workers like her dad Charlie, who has worked at Colchester Hospital for 18 years in the supplies and facilities department.

Oakley Commins, six, has been using his creative flair to produce the artworks which feature animals and famous characters.

So far the Gosbecks Primary School pupil has raised £600 by selling off his drawings.

Antony and Cassie Scriven have created the NHS logo out of a range of different household items in their back garden.

Teachers and students at Colchester Institute pooled their knowledge to help make vital hand sanitiser and medical scrubs for staff at Colchester Hospital.

Harry Fryer, from Colchester, and his pals raised more than £6,000 for the NHS by running more than 2,000 miles in the space of three weeks.

Kenneth George Walsh, who has had three hip replacements, ran 26.2 miles, by jogging about 945 lengths of the Malting Wharf’s car park in Manningtree, to mark his 80th birthday.

He raised £300 for the NHS.

Sgt Stephen Johnson, of 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, based at Colchester Garrison, turned his back garden into a racetrack so he could complete a gruelling 42 marathons in 42 days to raise cash for the NHS.

To date he has raised £5,212.

As the nation takes small steps into the unlocking period and hopefully towards a new normal, we want to take the time to say thank you to our lovely readers who have supported our NHS through this pandemic.

In years to come, the difference you have made will not be forgotten.

Editor of the Gazette, Gary Pearson, said: “This appeal has been a huge success and we are thankful to everyone who has donated for these incredibly worthy causes.

“Local newspapers do so much more than delivering news for the communities they serve and this is a text-book example of regional news teams going above and beyond, at a time of crisis.

“The generosity of our readers up and down the country has been second to none. “