16 year old Francis Edwards, who volunteers to help children with additional needs at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Leeds centre in Eccup, has been chosen to carry the Olympic torch through the city on Sunday 24th June.
Francis, who has cerebral palsy, has been connected with the centre in Eccup since it opened in 1999 and he started coming along for donkey riding therapy to help with his posture. He now volunteers on the reception at the centre, taking riding therapy bookings for other young people with additional needs.
Francis’ mother, Jane, explains how he has benefited from donkey riding therapy, and why he has chosen to volunteer at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Leeds centre:
“When the Eccup Centre opened in 1999, we were delighted to have somewhere that Francis could go for riding therapy that was not weather dependent, and where sessions would be tailored to his condition. The improvement in his posture was incredible, and within weeks of going there he was able to sit up. For five years he attended the centre’s Saturday club, twilight club and went for lessons in the school holidays, and he got so much from it.
“Last year Francis’ school asked students to think about doing a community work service placement, and there was only one place he wanted to go – The Donkey Sanctuary’s Leeds centre. He now helps out on the reception at the centre, taking bookings for the twilight club that helped him so much and gave him so much enjoyment. I am delighted that his voluntary work has been recognised with his invitation to carry the Olympic torch through Leeds on 24th June, it is a very exciting time both for Francis and for us as a family.”
Caroline Armstrong, Centre Co-ordinator for the charity’s donkey assisted therapy centre in Leeds, adds:
“Francis is a really valuable member of the team and we would not be without him. It has been fantastic to see how his condition has improved over the years through donkey riding therapy, and his voluntary work now helps to make sure that other children with additional needs can also benefit. We are proud to support him as he carries the Olympic torch on 24th June.”
The Donkey Sanctuary is always keen to hear from people who would like to volunteer with either the charity’s donkey assisted therapy activities, or with the donkeys themselves. To find out more, please visit www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk.
For an interview, further information or images, please contact The Donkey Sanctuary press office on 01395 573097/573014, mobile 07970 927778 or via email.
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