Dad’s pride as Leeds donkey charity reaches 40 years

Daniel McLoughlin with Roman Burleigh, 3, alongside Marrion MaHaffie and Lynn Barton at the 40th anniversary celebrations of The Donkey Sanctuary.

Daniel McLoughlin with Roman Burleigh, 3, alongside Marrion MaHaffie and Lynn Barton at the 40th anniversary celebrations of The Donkey Sanctuary.

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A Leeds dad has spoken of his pride at working for an inspirational charity which helped his daughter before she sadly died aged seven.

Daniel McLoughlin now works as visitor and events assistant at The Donkey Sanctuary in Eccup which provides life-changing riding therapy to thousands of disabled youngsters each year and this week celebrates its 40th anniversary. His daughter Grace spent five years benefiting from the centre’s therapy before she died in 2013 just four days before her eighth birthday.

Grace McLoughlin pictured with her dad, Daniel, Donkey Sanctuary in Eccup, Leeds, in 2012, aged seven.

Grace McLoughlin pictured with her dad, Daniel, Donkey Sanctuary in Eccup, Leeds, in 2012, aged seven.

After completing a history degree, Daniel said he jumped at the chance when offered a job at the centre which had transformed his daughter’s life.

“It’s very cathartic working here. There are so many children who have so much in common with Grace that it’s a very warm feeling I get. I feel a connection with Grace still.”

He said the sanctuary is an incredible asset for youngsters across the region.

“It was massive for Grace. From a physical point of view it helped strengthen her core stability, regulate her breathing and become more flexible. But it was emotional as well - that’s why we’ve so many children on the autism spectrum, it benefits them hugely. It’s a safe haven, where they can almost escape the outside world.”

This week has seen the charity host a range of activities to mark its 40-year anniversary including a party yesterday for old and new riders and their families. Daniel added: “To me, this week’s celebration of 40 years...is possibly the most significant milestone I’ll be a part of as donkey assisted therapy was and is a very big part of my life and, as importantly, a huge part of the memories I cherish of my wonderful daughter Grace.”

Read Daniel’s blog at www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/blog/for-grace.

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