‘He always makes people giggle’: Shetland pony raises spirits and vital funds for charity

  • A Shetland pony who works as a dementia ambassador has raised more than £18,000 for charity.

    Ali Stearn, from Norfolk, bought Jack Brock as a three-year-old from Mark Brock, who rescued him as a foal from a traveller fair.

    Ali told H&H she took Jack into her house one day in 2013 when she needed to grab something and it became a ritual of taking him indoors.

    “My friend said when I got married, because he was so good inside, I should let him carry the confetti in the church,” she said.

    “The story went in a wedding magazine and from that I had a call from a nurse at a care home asking if I would be interested in taking Jack to visit the patients. I said ‘let’s try it’ and ever since we’ve been supporting dementia care and doing visits at homes around Norfolk.”

    Ali said Jack is “full of character” and loved by patients.

    “People come up to him on zimmer frames and wheelcahirs but he is never worried and if he ever gets too hot he’ll happily roll on the nursing home carpet,” she said.

    “I feel very proud of Jack when I see the response on people’s faces and he always makes people giggle. I don’t know if it’s just his spirit but it brings something out in people. He’s a very special pony.”

    Jack, who also attends weddings, was given sponsorship from the Co-op Group, becoming a brand ambassador in 2017.

    “The East of England Co-op really helped raise awareness of his work and put him in all their magazines which was brilliant. They held a ceremony for him and gave him a rug,” Ali said.

    “We’ve met so many people who take pictures of Jack and post them on social media and his profile has spiralled. It’s wonderful because it helps raise awareness of dementia and the need for therapy ponies.”

    Jack took part in a six-mile sponsored walk around a country estate earlier in the year and has raised £18,000 to date in 2019 for dementia charities. Ali is also launching Jack’s first Christmas card, illustrated by Ali, which can be bought online with all funds going to dementia causes. Ali illustrated a 2018 Christmas card for her stepfather, 1981 Grand National winner Bob Champion, in aid of the Bob Champion Cancer Trust.

    “If a home or dementia café sell the cards they keep the proceeds for themselves, and the proceeds from cards sold on my website will be donated too,” said Ali. “I like the money to go to the activity departments at homes because often the budgets are small. I don’t charge to bring Jack in but other activities can cost homes a lot of money.

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    “Dementia cafes give everybody a break and are run by volunteers. If someone has dementia you can take them to a café and they can play cards or paint pictures with a volunteer and you can sit in another room with other family members in the same boat and have a coffee and discuss things together. People are starting them up in more places but they still need volunteers and funds to help run them.”

    Ali has been invited to No.11 Downing Street next week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Dementia UK in recognition of her work and fundraising for dementia.

    “It’s wonderful to be invited. They said they’d love Jack to come too but unfortunately for security reasons at Downing Street he can’t go with me.”

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