Blackpool is not a bad place to be a donkey, with legally guaranteed lunch breaks and Fridays off –so why leave?
Despite the perks of life on the Fylde coast, Rocco the Blackpool Carers’ Centre mascot has been jetting off all over the world.
Although the larger than life sized version of the donkey remains at the charity’s Beaverbrooks House headquarters, his mini-mascot lookalikes have been off sightseeing.
At last year’s charity ball – named the Purple Ball in honour of the BBC DIY SOS makeover team who transformed the charity’s Newton Drive base a little over 12 months ago – guests were invited to take Rocco on their travels to raise awareness of carers the world over using the power of social media.
Using the hashtag #RoccoCares the little donkey’s globetrotting adventures have been mapped out through the Blackpool Carers Twitter account.
In the last 12 months, he’s become the fifth Beatle in Liverpool – posing at the tribute to the fab four – and surprise-surprise Cilla Black’s statue there too.
He’s scaled mountains in Wales, visited the smallest house in Britain, and joined the Malfoys on set at Malfoy Manor.
Down Under, Rocco was a surprise star at Carers’ Australia International Carers’ Conference in the company of NHS England experience of care Lead Jen Kenward.
He emerged unscathed from the mouth of a Marlin in Portugal and even braved Genghis Khan, the fearsome warrior who conquered half the known world in the 13th century.
The #RoccoCares prize – of two tickets for the charity’s spring ball in March – has gone to retired teachers Susan and David Mitchell who have supported the carers’ charity for several years.
Susan and David took Rocco to meet their youngest daughter Gillian, former head of performing arts and music at St George’s School, who now teaches in Mongolia. The three travelled via Paris and South Korea.
Susan explains: “We began to think of possible sites where he could be photographed.
“The Statue of Ghengis Khan is probably the most well-known and impressive feature in Mongolia.
“It is 40 metres tall, made of stainless steel and, when we visited, the covering of snow and the blue sky gave a stunning backdrop.
“It is possible to climb up inside the statue and we took our winning picture some distance off the ground. We also featured Rocco on horseback.
“Rocco attended an Eagle festival, visited Buddhist temples, slept overnight at minus eight.
“The country appealed to his adventurous spirit.
“The Mongolian people were intrigued by us taking pictures of our little friend!
“As he had enjoyed his visit so much, we left him in the nursery at the British School in Ulaanbaatar where Gillian taught. Here he can play with the three and four-year-olds, spread some joy and learn the language in his new home.”
Kay Soper, editor of the charity’s Caring Times, said: “Rocco’s travelled far since the Purple Ball and our carers love hearing and reading of his adventures.
“A donkey was the perfect mascot for the charity – we love the fact that Blackpool has had a donkey charter for so long.
“A local carer came up with the name Rocco. Today there’s a Roccolina too – unofficially named by staff here.
“Both have their own wardrobes knitted by volunteers Christine Hayes and Sheila Olpin. Sales really help the charity.
“We’ve had so much fun looking at the #RoccoCares pictures – but there was no arguing with Genghis Khan!”