November volunteers of the month - Blackpool & The Fylde group

Blackpool & The Fylde is one of Brooke’s newly formed group of volunteers and includes eight very special four legged members! Formed in 2017, they have raised nearly £3,000 and significantly contributed to the extraordinary success of the three Brooke Annual Winter Balls fundraising total of £53,400.

David Simmons and Eileen Nicholls (left), two of the group's donkeys at Blackpool Beach

Led by Eileen Nicholls and David Simmons, the group includes one of our youngest volunteers Jon Jo Edwards (age 10), Eileen’s sister Alexandra and her family plus eight beautifully cared for donkeys called Cochise, Warrior, Shane, Apache, Kyouwa, Cheyenne, Sioux and Cherokee (fondly known as The Boys!) all raise awareness of Brooke’s work and vital funds to help their fellow working donkeys far less fortunate than they are.

Cochise and Cheyenne at Brooke's Winter Ball

Cochise and Shane welcomed guests to the inaugural Brooke Winter Gala Dinner in 2017 which for Eileen, David and the family was a very proud moment. Cochise, the stallion of the group who will be 20 next year, has been lead donkey welcoming hundreds of guests at Brooke’s annual dinner every year since. Eileen said: “We hope to see everyone again in 2021, circumstances permitting”.

The donkeys are regularly seen on Blackpool Beach and at many shows in Northern England including Ripley, Barnard Castle, Warrington, Durham and Wolsingham. This year, the donkeys have been busy on the beach and during Blackpool Illuminations the family’s twelve carriage horses got involved appearing on Blackpool promenade during the illuminations and accepting donations for Brooke. The group also hold a Christmas table top sale and this year will be going digital accepting donations via Eileen’s Facebook page in aid of Brooke in lieu of people sending Christmas Cards to the group and the donkeys!

Photo of Colin Nicholls (on left) with Dolly an Irish draught mare and Captain, a Clydesdale. This photo was taken on 11.11.1970 and the horses were decorated with poppies made by Eileen and her sister, Alexandra.

Eileen said: “My family have been supporters of Brooke as long as I can remember. My Grandad, John Wright Nicholls, who fought in WW1 spoke very highly of Brooke and was involved in protecting the horses he fought alongside. I recall, on Sundays which was the only day my Dad, Colin Nicholls, had off in the week his treat was to relax and read the Sunday paper. Brooke was very often featured in the paper and fondly spoken of on Sundays. Today, ‘The Boys!’ are not properly dressed without their Brooke rugs, red, white and blue ribbons that they wear on their forelocks representing past, present and future and, in November, the special addition of their red and purple poppies”. She added: “Jon Jo is very proud of what he does for Brooke and enjoys wearing his Brooke t-shirt and gilet, he was just 7 years old when he first got involved and one day he will get to go to the Brooke Winter Ball!”

Brooke Senior Regional Fundraising Officer Caroline Robertson said: "There is an incredible buzz of excitement surrounding the fundraising events when the donkeys make a special guest appearance, they certainly pull on your heart strings! Every event they are involved in brings sunshine and joy to all who attend. I personally have very fond memories of meeting all eight donkeys, they are much loved and all with their own personalities. We can’t thank Eileen, her team and of course ‘The Boys!’ enough for everything that they do for Brooke. We are truly grateful for their continued support.”

Blackpool & The Fylde Fundraising Group are part of a large network of volunteers fundraising for Brooke around the UK. Money raised from volunteers goes towards Brooke’s work across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, making lasting improvements to the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules and the people who depend on them.

If you’re interested in volunteering, joining a group or forming your own group please email [email protected]