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Unicorn festival to make Elsie’s dream come true

Making a special little girl’s dream come true is the inspiration behind a magical unicorn festival which will take place at Sledmere House on Good Friday.

Ten-year-old Elsie from Driffield was diagnosed with CLN3 Batten disease in December 2021.

It is a progressive condition that results in the gradual loss of sight, the ability to walk, talk and swallow, and the occurrence of complex seizures that are difficult to manage.

This rare life-limiting disease affects roughly 1 in 50,000 children and is a condition with a life expectancy of 14-18 years.

Elsie’s parents Phil Smith and Caroline Parrish have launched Elsie’s Appeal to help give their daughter as many fun experiences and memories while she can still enjoy them fully and to help meet her needs in the longer term by building a specialist extension at home which will support her care going forwards.

Phil said: “Elsie has lost most of her sight and uses a cane; she is already having seizures which are managed quite well with medication at the moment and she will soon lose the use of her body.

“She doesn’t know the full details of her condition yet, but she knows that she can’t see and that she gets ‘fizzy’ and can’t control it.

“We launched Elsie’s Appeal because in order for her to be able to live at home we need to fund the building of a specialist extension which can support her extra needs.

“We also want to be able to give Elsie as many fun experiences and lovely memories as possible.”

Caroline added that the idea for the Festival of the Unicorn came from Elsie’s obsession with all things magical and her wish to see a real unicorn.

“Elsie believes in anything to do with fairies or unicorns and before her sight goes completely she wanted to see a real life unicorn,” said Caroline.

“Through mutual friends, Natalie from The Tack Shed heard about Elsie’s wish and she and her amazing team from the equine community are helping to make that dream come true with a parade of unicorns and a magical day of fun for everyone to enjoy.”

The Festival of the Unicorn will take place at Sledmere House on Good Friday, 7th April from 10am until 4pm.

Currently more than 50 unicorns have registered to take part in the parade, which will begin at 1pm, although it is hoped that this number could double.

An application has also been made for a Guinness World Record attempt on the day for the most equines dressed as unicorns in one place.

Natalie Ibbitson-Garvey from The Tack Shed said after initially appealing for one unicorn to make Elsie’s dream come true, the offers came flooding in and the festival grew from there.

She said: “We put a post out saying that a poorly little girl needed our help and appealed for one unicorn, but the equine community has been utterly amazing and we have now had offers of more than 50 and I anticipate we will have upwards of 100 on the day.

“We also hope to attempt a Guinness World Record for the most equines dressed as unicorns in one place.”

Natalie said the offers of help didn’t just stop there with Sledmere House offering to host the event, and face painting, bouncy castles, hair extensions and nail painting, music, photo booth, a bar and entertainment in the main ring from the Pony Club and the Highmoor Bloodhounds adding to the fun.

An auction will also be held after donations were received from Olympic and world champion dressage rider Lottie Fry who has given a signed shirt from the Tokyo Olympics to auction for Elsie’s Appeal.
This Esme and Harlow and Popcorn have also donated signed merchandise to auction and have shared information about the event across their Instagram platforms.

Natalie added: “So many people have offered to help and most businesses in Driffield have supported the appeal with donations of raffle prizes and we would like to thank them all.

“If anyone would like to donate a raffle prize or a teddy for the teddy bear raffle, please drop them into the Tack Shed.

“The Festival of the Unicorn is for everyone – children and adults – who believe in a bit of magic and want to see some unicorns and making a little girl’s dream come true is something that you just can’t ignore.”

Caroline and Phil will be attending the Festival of the Unicorn along with their children Elsie and her younger brother, six-year-old Wilf.

It is hoped they will lead out the parade on a unicorn-drawn carriage.

Caroline said: “I never imagined this would take off as it has done. The support we have received since launching Elsie’s appeal has been amazing and quite overwhelming.

“We have friends and local businesses who have offered to help with all aspects of the extension from project management, electric and plumbing to flooring.

“Elsie and Wilf’s schools, Driffield Junior School and Northfield Infant School, have been amazing and offered so much support and Martin House Hospice has been brilliant.

“Our friends and family have been so supportive and Natalie and everyone who has helped in any way to make Elsie’s dream come true are truly amazing.”

Phil added: “It has been fantastic and is a really good example of true community support.”

If you have a unicorn pony, no matter what colour or size, and would like to take part in this special unicorn parade, please email natalie@thetackshed.co.uk for more information and an application form.

Rainbow painted manes, tails, pink hooves and glitter are all encouraged and horns will be available to buy on the day. Tickets for the Festival of the Unicorn are available on the gate priced £2.50 for adults and £1.50 for under 16s. All proceeds are for Elsie’s Appeal.

To find out more about Elsie’s Appeal and to donate, please visit the page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/elsies-appeal-enabling-her-care-needs-to-be-met

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