YOUNGSTERS suffering the loss of a parent or sibling were treated to a day as a keeper at a county wildlife park.
Headington’s SeeSaw arranged the visit for 10 children from seven families to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford.
The star attraction was African rhinoceros Nancy and her calf Astrid, the first white rhino born at the park in its 44-year history.
They also met some of the park’s other four-legged residents including giraffes and giant tortoises.
Among the visitors was was Hannah Batt-Rawden, 10, and brother Jamie, seven, from Wootton, near Abingdon, with their dad David.
The Wootton St Peter’s Primary School pupils lost their mum, Susan, to motor neurone disease in December 2010.
Jamie said: “I had a great day. But the best bit was stroking the rhino with its very big horn.”
Hannah said: “I like animals, so today has been great.”
Their father said: “It has been great to get out, see the animals and have a look at life behind the scenes at the wildlife park.
“Society understands divorce and separation more than bereavement.
“People generally think I’m divorced and that I am taking the kids because I’ve got them for the weekend or to give my wife a break.
“So it’s nice to be in a group which understands who we are.”
Mr Batt-Rawden gave up his job as an energy and environmental consultant to become what he called a full-time “house dad”.
He said: “SeeSaw has been with us from when Susan was ill to now. It was very difficult because the children were so young.
“They are now asking more questions and are entering the next stage of grieving.”
The charity was set up in 2000 and has supported 478 children and 278 families over the last year.
Clinical staff member Jenny Armstrong said: “Christmas, especially, can be a hard time of year. And when they are grieving it can be difficult to have fun. Days like this allow them to do that. It’s also important for them to meet other children who have been bereaved as they can sometimes feel they are the only ones it has happened to.”
Park spokesman Debbie Ryan said: “SeeSaw is a charity close to our hearts and we look forward to supporting them in the future.”
s For information on the charity, visit seesaw.org.uk or call 01865 744768.