Shrewsbury travel agents in fundraising drive for special school

By Lucy Todman | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

The manager of a new travel store in Shrewsbury who has made a difference to the life of a 12-year-old boy with autism has launched a fundraising drive in support of the youngster’s school.

Manager Steve Payne and Daniel O'Leary

Steve Payne, who runs the new Hays Travel store which officially opened last weekend, has nominated the Friends of Severndale Academy as the shop’s charity partner for the next year after striking up a special friendship with the family of Daniel O’Leary.

The fundraising drive was launched by Daniel and his parents, Nick and Lorna, as well as Shrewsbury Mayor Phil Gillam, during the store’s official opening.

The store on Pride Hill is part of Hays Travel North West and has been opened following a £70,000 refurbishment.

Steve, 53, met Daniel when his parents booked the family’s first holiday abroad to Euro Disney in Paris while he was working at the former Thomas Cook store in the town last year.

Daniel, who was diagnosed with autism as a three-year-old, was involved in every aspect of the booking process from choosing the hotel to planning the park visits and developed such a strong friendship with Steve, he enjoys nothing better than popping in to say hello during his regular Saturday trips into town.

Familiarity and routine are essential to Daniel’s emotional wellbeing and ability to cope with his condition and Steve is delighted to play a small part in that reassurance.


Steve said: “I’m delighted to support Daniel and his family as well as the wider school.


“Daniel enjoys his routine on a Saturday, coming into town and going into shops. It’s really lovely to be part of that routine.”

Severndale Academy provides specialist education for up to 400 young people with a range of disabilities.

When Daniel was initially diagnosed, his parents were warned he probably would remain non-verbal. However he is now able to have full conversations and is growing in confidence socially.

“We went into the travel agents and my wife decided to let Daniel choose the hotel and it’s all gone from there. We built a relationship up,” said Nick.


“He has the confidence now to go into the shop to speak to Steve. Now, every time we go into town, he wants to go in and see Steve."

Nick is now treasurer and vice chair of the Friends of Severndale Academy.

“We have charity status and we raise funds for the school. Last year, we raised in excess of £20,000 for a specially adapted mini bus. We have just raised £13,000 for a wheelchair swing,” said Nick.

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.


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