A dad has made a desperate plea to reunite his little daughter with her beloved toy rabbit in time for her fourth birthday after it went missing on a shopping trip.
Jamie McGuire, 36, was with his daughter Florence, three, in Chelmsford, Essex on New Year’s Day when her lifelong companion and “best friend” Fred was lost.
The family believe the £15 toy was left in the Meadows Shopping Centre.
A member of the public later posted a photo of Fred abandoned in the centre, but did not pick him up.
Little Florence is said to be “heartbroken” by the loss of her best friend, who has been at her side at every milestone of her life since she was just weeks old.
In a desperate bid to lessen their daughter’s grief, parents Jamie and Joanna sent Florence a card from Fred explaining that he is on holiday and will return home soon.
But with her fourth birthday on Sunday, the race is now on to track down the toy in time for what would be the “perfect homecoming”.
Dad Jamie said: “Fred is a member of the family. He was a gift from her mum when Florence was born, and he became known as Fred.
“She had spotted had spotted him in a shop and it was love at first sight.
“Florence and Fred became a little duo, and we realised it was F&F, like the Tesco brand. It just seemed to make sense really.
“Fred was there on Florence‘s first day at nursery, when she met her sister Violet, when she went to the Natural History Museum. He’s always in pictures with her.
“He was there when she was scared. He was there when she was ill. He’s been there through all her life’s biggest moments.”
Jamie explained how he and his wife have sent Florence a Moonpig card from her beloved toy saying he is on a “little adventure”.
The card reads: “Hi Flossy, I thought I would send you a card to let you know I am having lots of fun on my little adventure and have been playing with lots of my friends. We have been to the shops, the play place and tomorrow we are off to play in the mud!! I am missing you though and will be back in a couple of days – I think I might need a bath!! Give Freda big cuddles until I’m home 🙂 See you very, very soon. Love you lots and lots. Your Fred xxxxxxx”
Jamie, from Chelmsford, said: “But she’s still been crying most evenings.
“We could buy a new one from Jellycat and make it look old, but she’s a clever girl and we want to find the original Fred. He’s got all the smells, the feel.
“So we’ve decided to really push it out on social media.
“Someone must know where Fred is. We’ve got a big party for her fourth birthday on Sunday, so it would be the perfect homecoming.
“But if he doesn’t come back, as parents we’re faced with the dilemma of ‘Do we tell Florence?’.
“Do we look her in the eyes and tell her he is gone? Even saying that makes my heart go. It’s a big decision.”
So far the family’s appeal has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook and the hash-tag #FindFred has trended on Twitter.
Jamie, who is an award-winning acoustic guitarist and singer, said he wanted to offer a reward for whoever finds the cuddly rabbit.
He said: “I am happy to offer to do a free two-hour gig for the person who finds him. I don’t want it to appear like I’m trying to advertise – I just want to offer some kind of incentive or reward.”
Anyone who might have seen Fred should contact Masons News Service on 01223 224400.