'I can't contain my excitement': Staff at Cork's beloved Donkey Sanctuary welcome visitors back

'I can't contain my excitement': Staff at Cork's beloved Donkey Sanctuary welcome visitors back

Gett Romyen from Carrigaline, making friends with Orla at the donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.

“I CAN’T contain my excitement — we’re beside ourselves!”

So said Breeda Clancy, head of fundraising and visitor engagement at the Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll as its open farm welcomed visitors back yesterday for the first time in over 12 months.

The Donkey Sanctuary would typically see more than 50,000 people visit in a normal year but until yesterday, not a single visitor had been through the gates since March last year.

“We closed the gates here on March 13, 2020, and it was the saddest thing ever. It was very difficult,” said Breeda.

“Initially we thought, as many people did, that it was only going to be for a short while but obviously it didn’t transpire that way.

“We had to stay positive. Obviously, we have our donkeys to look after and the staff so that’s why we stayed closed until now.

 Kaci and Ryhs Heffernan from Mallow, enjoying their ice cream at the donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.
Kaci and Ryhs Heffernan from Mallow, enjoying their ice cream at the donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.

“Today is our first day opening, the sun is shining, we’re all so excited to have our supporters back and the donkeys are so excited as well. It’s so wonderful to see.”

Despite being closed to the public until yesterday, work at the Donkey Sanctuary continued daily during the pandemic, with farm and vet staff tending to the donkeys’ needs.

Pre-Covid, the Donkey Sanctuary was open to visitors 364 days a year, with the exception of Christmas Day.

For the summer months, the sanctuary has chosen a gradual reopening, open to visitors Thursdays and Fridays.

“For the moment now, I would say probably say until the end of August, we’re only opening Thursdays and Fridays. Hopefully, as the months go on we might be able to put in an extra day,” said Breeda.

“We have a morning session and an afternoon session and if people want to book a slot they can do so online through our website.

“It just gives us a chance to get used to the whole idea of people coming in and to make sure that all our supporters when they come in are safe.

“We’re following all our guidelines and our protocols and we’ve done our risk assessment. It’s really important that we look after our supporters coming in.”

One ticket will permit one car with a maximum of seven people from the same household entry to the sanctuary.

 Stephen O'Dowd with Luke and Ava Williams-O'Dowd, all from Adare, at the donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll, Co Cork.Picture: David Keane.
Stephen O'Dowd with Luke and Ava Williams-O'Dowd, all from Adare, at the donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll, Co Cork.Picture: David Keane.

“We’ve been getting so many calls over the last few months asking when we would be opening, so it’s really good to be able to now say we’re opening Thursdays and Fridays. I can’t contain my excitement – we’re beside ourselves,” said Breeda, laughing.

While entry to the Donkey Sanctuary is free of charge, donations are encouraged and much appreciated by the charity.

“The last 15 months have been pretty difficult for fundraising,” Breeda said.

With opportunities for in-person fundraising events decimated due to the pandemic, the sanctuary endeavoured to put a greater emphasis into virtual means of raising funds to continue its vital work

“We’ve had to change approaches on fundraising but we’ve great supporters and they’re incredibly generous.

“The donkeys are adopted from literally all over the world.

 Staff members Ashling O'Sullivan and Karena Cussen and Darragh, at the donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll, Co Cork.Picture: David Keane.
Staff members Ashling O'Sullivan and Karena Cussen and Darragh, at the donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll, Co Cork.Picture: David Keane.

“We’ve had people coming from America in the past before Covid and their first port of call would have been here to the Donkey Sanctuary to see their adoption donkey before they went off on their travels.

“We’ve 12 adoption donkeys and actually there are some people who have adopted all 12!”

“It’s €25 to adopt a donkey for the year. You get an update after six months and within the pack, you get a lovely sketch and information about the donkey.

“It’s a lovely thing to get for yourself or as a present for someone.”

  • For more on the Donkey Sanctuary or to book a slot to visit the open farm, go to thedonkeysanctuary.ie

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