Driffield NewsNEWS

Amazing amount raised for Elsie’s Appeal at the first Festival of the Unicorn event

Organisers of the spectacular Festival of the Unicorn say they have been “blown away by the kindness of strangers” after the final total raised at the event was announced as £17,453.36.

The magical event, held at Sledmere Estate on 30th April, attracted more than 4,500 people and was organised by friends and family of 10-year-old Elsie from Driffield who was diagnosed with CLN3 Batten disease in December 2021.

This rare progressive condition 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.

Elsie’s parents Phil Smith and Caroline Parrish 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.

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.

After hearing about Elsie’s wish, Natalie Ibbitson-Garvey from The Tack Shed in Driffield put out an appeal to the equine community for a unicorn to make Elsie’s dream come true and the offers came flooding in and the festival grew from there.

Elsie could barely contain her excitement as she led out a parade of around 130 unicorns – all with colourful manes and tails and magnificent horns.

The festival also featured entertainment from members of Shuffles Dance Class, the Pony Club, and the Highmoor Bloodhounds, as well as bouncy castles, face painting, hair braiding, games, raffles, tombolas, and an auction.

Caroline and Phil said the generosity of all those who supported the event will make such a huge difference to their lives.

They said: “The amount of money that has been raised is totally over and above what any of us could have dreamed of and all our thanks go to all the people who volunteered to make it such a success.

“The money will go such a long way to getting Elsie’s extension built and that is quite overwhelming.

“We couldn’t believe how many people gave up their time to help and then to see so many people come along on the day was just brilliant.

“Elsie had such a great time and has not stopped talking about it since.

“Before all of this we had never even met Natalie and she has gone over and above in every way to help us and from all of this we have made life-long friends who will stay in our lives forever.

“The way we have been supported is quite incredible and shows how lucky we are to live in a place like Driffield. We have been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers.

“Once again, our sincerest thanks go to everyone who helped in any way to make the unicorn festival such a success.

“Your help has made Elsie a very happy girl and hopefully made many more people believe that unicorns do indeed exist.”

Natalie added her thanks to everyone who played their part in the success of the festival.

She said: “I want to say a huge thank you to all the horses and owners because without their support we couldn’t have done any of it.

“We are really pleased we have been able to raise such a fantastic amount of money and we never imagined we would get that many people, it was so well supported.

“Our thanks go to everybody who came along and supported us in any way, and everyone just had a really good day.”

Thoughts are now turning to next year’s event, with Natalie and Caroline hoping to team up to repeat the festival and raise funds to help another family affected by a life-changing diagnosis.

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