Maria rides to the rescue of Paignton Zoo

Cyclist Maria with mum Sarah

Cyclist Maria with mum Sarah - Credit: eyJpdiI6Ilh5SXJyREl5Y2tvS0FjbHB0RDVzSUE9PSIsInZhbHVlIjoibnBBNlFCbFJlNmRNK3o5cU5GeHJjTGNWS2ZrZzY1dGh1NGlCSTdyQitVNnlMRUJYcWdLdTZhM3BJMkFwcWFWTiIsIm1hYyI6Ijc3YzcyOTNiNTVmYTFjZWZhNzE5NzQ3ZDQ4MzQ2ZmM1NzZjNzc3NzY4MDk4ZTkwMDQyN2M5NmJkYzNlMGUwMWQifQ==

The plight of Paignton Zoo has been a major concern throughout the Covid-19 crisis and th eTorbay Weekly is proud to be working with the zoo and our community to keep this iconic attraction thriving for generations to come.

Face-painted fundraiser Maria

Face-painted fundraiser Maria - Credit: eyJpdiI6IlA0ZEJuMzZ2bWR2cHlJOEFUZ3lPTFE9PSIsInZhbHVlIjoiQTc0dlZvYkxQQndISUF4WHM4K2FGOEVSOFUySmhzXC9lVXhQSzFpa0wzT3hxWUlcL0V2VHNORXIzeTc5ZnNCbWcxIiwibWFjIjoiNzVkOWFmNGNkZDkzOTc4YWYyOGVhZjE5YWY5NjhjZTM4MmYwODcxNzZkMGYxYTI0NGEyMTkwZDQ0OGVmMzM1NSJ9

One inspirational youngster from Torquay decided to embark on her own fundraising challenge - and nine-year-old Maria set an initial target to raise £200 by cycling from Torquay to Paignton every day for two weeks.

Not only that, Maria added in the extra bonus of some animal artistry, capturing the imagination to such an extent that she smashed her target by more than £1,200.

'When Living Coasts shut down, Maria was obviously very sad to hear that news and Paignton Zoo is also struggling financially, so she just wanted to help raise some money,' said mum Sarah Dowrick.

'The challenge was to cycle from Torquay to Paignton, and back again, every single day, with the added extra of having her face painted as a different animal for each ride.

Cyclist Maria with face painted

Cyclist Maria with face painted - Credit: eyJpdiI6IitWcW85aE1XTTJKeUhKaWM4NitJMGc9PSIsInZhbHVlIjoidFVSblE3MXVkSFl0REJoTURvTHlnelh6OTlmR1lJZ0RlQUJpVTVjVlwva3dGc1wvUmFxMG1rXC81QTV3SzlFOEN2KyIsIm1hYyI6ImVlOGM3Mzg5OTA2MzUxY2RhMzc0ODc1MGFiYjIyNjk5NTIzYzNiMzIwN2M1YzY3ZmRiY2UwMmEwMzY3ZGI4NjMifQ==

'She has now completed the challenge and managed to raise an amazing £1,457. The challenge lasted 14 days and Maria was delighted to hand over the cheque to Paignton Zoo.

'I obviously went with her each day, so it helped my fitness as well. Of all the different animals she had painted on each day, her favourite was the maned wolf.

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'Maria attends Cockington Primary School and a huge thanks to them for their support, with some of her teachers actually joining Maria on a couple of the rides.'

Maria said: 'Paignton Zoo is very important to Torbay. They are taking care of the animals every day and it's not just there for entertainment. The animals need to be fed and cared for all the time.'

Save Paignton Zoo

Save Paignton Zoo - Credit: Archant