A young Northamptonshire man had his dream come true when a charity sent him to Africa to walk with lions alongside ITV’s Lion Country presenter, David Youldon.
Dale Murphy, from Cold Ashby, had his ultimate wish granted by children’s charity Starlight Children’s Foundation after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at 15-years-old and later developed a serious bone disease.
During many long hours of hospital treatment, Dale, now aged 20, began watching David Youldon’s Lion Country DVDs and wrote to Starlight, saying: “Apart from making me completely well and having no more treatment ever, the one thing I would love to do is to meet David Youldon and actually spend some time with the lions he nurtures back into the wild.”
Determined to finish his education and even though his illness meant he had to give up a long-awaited trip to Thailand as well as swimming for the county, Dale sat all 10 of his GCSEs - some even from his bed.
After being contacted by Starlight, Mr Youldon invited Dale and his family to spend eight days at tge Lion Encounter conservation base in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia, and even met them at Zambia’s Livingstone Airport himself.
The Murphy’s visit included lion walks, a trip to the Chobe National Park in Botswana, a cruise on the Chobe River, a flight over the iconic Victoria Falls in a microlight aircraft and even a rare glimpse of the reclusive white rhino.
Dale said: “I want to thank everyone for this rare opportunity to have had an experience like this which I will never forget. Since returning home we have had a new kitten, which we named ‘Sadiki’ after one of the lions we walked,
“I have already started saving so that I can return one day to volunteer at the base and I hope my story will help others going through the treatment to hang on in there and aim for their own dreams.”
Dale’s mother, Vicky, added: “It took us a little while to get back down to earth after the trip, which ticked every be possible. We had an absolutely fantastic time, doing things some people don’t even dare dream of. We would like to thank Starlight, David Youldon and the Lion Encounter team for making this magical trip possible.
“It is only possible for David and his team to continue with this conservation programme through generous contributions and volunteers to his programme. We are all saving to be able to return in the near future as volunteers to support this.”