YOUNG shoppers were transported to the plains of Africa in a colourful finale to summer holiday activities raising money for a Wrexham centre which supports disabled children and their families.
Youngsters visiting Eagles Meadow shopping centre in Wrexham made the most of an animal mask-making workshop with a choice of fantastic creatures such as elephants, big cats and butterflies.
They were entertained by professional carnival performers, dressed as lions, zebras and antelopes, from London-based carnival creatives company Mahogany which created characters for the 2012 London Olympics ceremonies, as well as major celebrations in Singapore, Dubai and other global destinations.
It was the culmination of a four-week programme of family activities hosted by Eagles Meadow to mark the school summer holidays.
The free events, entitled Passport to Africa, coincided with the release of the Disney remake of The Lion King, currently on screens at the Eagles Meadow Odeon cinema.
The sessions included arts and crafts, dance and drumming workshops, a tropical bugs exhibition, and the imaginative mask-making activity.
Children who took part were each given a mock-up ‘passport’, full of puzzles, competitions and discount vouchers for Eagles Meadow shops.
To mark the project finale, children were also encouraged to wear the masks they made and take part in a parade with the animal performers through the shopping centre.
The Lion King musical and movie super-fan Seth Salisbury, aged five, said the performers were fantastic.
“I love the lions the best,” he said. “We’ve been doing a Lion King project at school before we broke up for summer. I can’t wait to see the new movie.”
He was visiting Eagles Meadow with his younger brother Amos, three, and mum Lisa.
She said: “These activities are a great idea. The children just love joining in.”
The mask making workshop also proved great fun for two other up and coming film fans from Borras, Wrexham, Ava Rogers, aged five, and her two year old sister, Lydia.
Their mum, Emma Garbutt, said: “The crafts sessions have really added to our experience. Today was our first ever visit to the cinema all together. We went to see The Secret Life of Pets 2 and the fun atmosphere before and after the film has made it an even more memorable occasion.”
Throughout the Passport to Africa sessions Eagles Meadow has been supporting its nominated charity, Dynamic, a Wrexham-based centre for children and young people with disabilities.
Dynamic provides out of school activities and training for children and young people with disabilities, aged between eight and 19.
It is partially funded by Wrexham Council but still needs to raise around £100,000 a year to stay open. It helps youngsters with a range of different disabilities including physical, intellectual or sensory impairments, emotional and behavioural issues or chronic illness.
It currently supports more than 100 young people by holding six weekly after school groups, a Saturday group, school holidays activities and a major summer programme to support families during the long school break.
Representatives from the charity have been at every Eagles Meadow Africa event raising money and awareness of what the centre does.
There for the animal mask workshop were trustee Chris Moore and project co-ordinator Claire Luff.
Claire said: “Dynamic is a small, local charity which doesn’t often get the chance to be in the public eye so having support from Eagles Meadow towards our cause is a massive boost for us and gives us an opportunity to spread the word into the local community about the valuable work Dynamic does.
“We can’t stress enough how much we thank Eagles Meadow and all the people who’ve donated over the last few weeks.”
Eagles Meadow Centre Operations Manager Stuart Bellis, said: “We’re so happy with the success of the Passport to Africa project. We thought it would be popular but the feedback we have received from all those who took part has been amazing. The animal performers were a brilliant focal point for the finale event and the masks the children made are all worthy of gold stars.
“It’s also been rewarding for us to help a local charity like Dynamic and to see the public so kindly donating to such a worthy cause.
“All in all Passport to Africa has been a fantastic journey for everyone involved and we will certainly be running more fun events like this in the future. Watch this space!”
Little Aria Hughes, aged five, a pupil of Ysgol Tan y Fron, Wrexham, has attended almost all the workshops and can’t wait to tell her classmates all about them on returning to school.
Her mum Hannah and dad Carl who also have a six month year old son, Aeron, said the activities have been ‘amazing’.
Hannah said: “They make coming out to the shops more fun for Aria and she’s learned lots of crafts skills too. She’s loved them all and we’ve enjoyed watching her have such a good time.”
Kieran O’Connor, ten, and his sister Jasmine, eight, also had a roaring good time making masks in the shape of lions. Their mum, Michaela, said: “It makes Eagles Meadow more of an interactive space. We came to the Easter holiday events too and the kids loved them. It’s such a positive way of engaging with the local community.”