17/10/11 – Fourteen year old Gabrielle (Ellie) Wilkinson from Bolton-By-Bowland near Clitheroe has had her dearest wish to go on Safari in Africa granted by Starlight Children’s Foundation, the UK’s leading wish granting charity for children with serious and terminal illnesses.
Ellie suffers from a life-shortening condition called Cystic Fibrosis. The illness is genetic and it affects the major organs of the body and particularly the lungs. Although the condition means that Ellie requires regular physiotherapy and daily medication, her father Paul says that his daughter is unfailingly brave.
When he approached the charity to put Ellie forward for a once-in-a-lifetime wish, he said, “She is a complete star and an inspiration to all of us. She has to deal with so much but never complains and absolutely refuses to allow her condition to get in the way of getting on with her life.”
Animal mad Ellie, who dreams of becoming a vet when she’s older, has always been fascinated by Africa and so she asked Starlight to go on Safari with her family for her wish. Paul told Starlight, “Any wish involving animals would really mean a lot to Ellie – she just loves spending time with any animal and plans to dedicate herself to helping sick and injured animals when she grows up. It would be amazing if she could go on Safari and experience seeing wild animals in their natural environment whilst her health is still good enough.”
In order to arrange Ellie’s dream trip, Starlight contacted The Ant Collection, which has two private bush homes located on their own private game reserve in the magnificent, malaria-free Waterberg region of the Limpopo province in South Africa. The owners of the family reserve, Ant and Tessa Baber, immediately offered to help the charity and opened its doors for a once-in-a-lifetime safari holiday for Ellie and her parents Paul and Rachel and brother Matthew.
Ellie had said, “I love all the African animals, especially the lions, elephants and giraffes especially. To go to Africa to see them would be just magical, “and Ant’s Nest really was the perfect place for her dreams to come true. The family were able to ride each day, seeing the wild animals in the natural environment, and during the stay Ellie was even able to go out with the vet and the safari team to treat an injured buffalo.
Once home, Paul said, “First of all I wanted to say what an amazing experience we all had on Ellie’s wish. Ant’s Nest was the perfect choice of safari experience. I don’t know how Starlight found it but it was absolutely superb. Ellie was in her element, riding every day and getting astonishingly close to the wild animals. The staff at Ant’s Nest were great. They were really friendly, took great care of us and taught us so much about the wildlife. Nothing was too much trouble and everything was tailored around what Ellie wanted. Thank you so much Starlight!”
Ellie’s mum Rachel added, “I just wanted to say a big thank you to Starlight and The Ant’s Collection who helped to make Ellie’s wish happen. Words cannot describe how amazing the holiday was. Ellie loved every moment and she is now more determined than ever to study to be a vet and work out there. All the staff at Ant’s Nest were incredibly welcoming and looked after us superbly. This has been an experience we’ll never forget.”