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Video: Leeds classmates enjoy first play at donkey farm

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  • by Laura Bowyer
 

For the last six years a Leeds donkey sanctuary has had a very special place in the McLoughlin family’s hearts.

The centre, in Eccup, helped to transform their little daughter Grace’s life.

Sadly Grace died in March, aged eight, after being admitted to hospital.

The youngster had multiple disabilities which left her unable to walk or sit unaided.

But despite that, Grace was always full of fun and determination.

Her heartbroken family have donated the money they were raising for intense physiotherapy, and a collection at Grace’s funeral, to pay for an accessible playground at the Elisabeth Svendsen Trust donkey sanctuary in Eccup.

A special swing in Grace’s memory was officially opened at the site by her devoted father Daniel yesterday.

And some of Grace’s classmates from Ireland Wood Primary were the first children to test out the new swing.

Dad Daniel, from Ireland Wood, told the YEP: “We feel very closely linked to the centre and we have got this bond that will last forever as a family.

“It’s just lovely to be able to do something like this especially for the centre that was very close to Grace’s heart.

“It meant so much to Grace not just physically but emotionally.

“For us to be able to give something back in Grace’s memory is a great honour.”

Daniel was on hand to help give children a push on the new swing including seven-year-old Thomas Hanlon.

Daniel added: “It’s great to see the children on the swing and their smiling faces.”

A special plaque takes pride of place above the swing in Grace’s memory engraved with the sentiment “Smile and swing with Grace”.

Centre manager Cathryn Williams said: “Grace was always smiling and this is a lasting memory.

“The children do get a very strong bond with the donkeys.”

Grace’s favourite donkey Tinker was even by her side on her final journey.

The white donkey took pride of place in the youngster’s funeral cortège alongside two black horses who pulled her carriage.

Hundreds of youngsters with disabilities benefit from animal therapy at the centre every month.

Jane Price, inclusion manager at Ireland Wood Primary, said: “For me it was very emotional.

“We were all very, very close to Grace and the children in her class have been coming here for two years.

“We have found this to be a great therapy for them.

“The sessions help with their empathy, balance, co-ordination and posture.

“The new playground is just absolutely lovely.”

 

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